How to Dispose of Your Cat’s Old Litter Box

So you’ve just replaced your cat’s litter box and are staring at the old one wondering how to get rid of it. Luckily, the answer is often pretty straightforward. 

The best way to dispose of an old litter box depends on the material of the box. Plastic litter boxes and most disposable litter boxes and liners should be thrown in the trash. Disposable cardboard or paper litter boxes can be composted. Stainless steel litter boxes should be recycled.

Below we’ll talk about how different types of litter boxes should be disposed of, the best ways to do so, and options to make your next litter box more environmentally friendly.  

Cute white cat laying on table

How do you throw away an old litter box?

In most cases, old litter boxes should be thrown in the trash.

Cat poop contains all kinds of nasty bacteria, parasites, and fungi. Naturally, when a cat uses the litter box, these pathogens are absorbed by the litter box over time.

Disposable litter boxes, made from cardboard or recycled paper, intake pathogens quickly. Plastic litter boxes initially do a good job of repelling harmful microorganisms, but as the litter box develops scratches and cracks, bacteria begins to penetrate the plastic

As a result, recycling and repurposing are unsanitary. For the most part, used litter boxes should be sent to the landfill. 

Simply bag your old litter box and throw it out with the rest of your trash. If it’s too large for a standard trash bag, it will probably still fit in a large contractor bag. 

Can litter boxes be recycled?

Plastic and disposable paper or cardboard litter boxes are not recyclable because they absorb bacteria and other harmful pathogens from your cat’s waste.

A stainless steel litter box can be recycled at a scrap metal recycling center after a thorough cleaning, but not through a standard curbside recycling program.  

Kitten laying inside red litter box

Are plastic litter boxes recyclable?

Plastic litter boxes should be replaced about twice a year — which is a whole lot of plastic being sent to our landfills.

Unfortunately, recycling isn’t a viable solution. 

Plastic litter boxes aren’t recyclable. They absorb bacteria and other harmful pathogens from a cat’s waste, making them unsuitable for recycling.

A better alternative is to swap to a more sustainable type of litter box.

Stainless steel litter boxes last significantly longer and can be recycled when replaced — less plastic produced and less plastic in landfills. 

Disposable litter boxes need to be replaced much more often, but are made from plant-based, biodegradable materials and can be composted — making them a more sustainable option than plastic. 

Are disposable litter boxes recyclable?

While disposable litter boxes are typically made of recyclable materials, used disposable litter boxes themselves are not recyclable.

Bacteria, fungi, parasites, and other harmful microorganisms from your cat’s waste are absorbed by the litter box, making it unfit to be recycled.

Disposable litter boxes made of cardboard or recycled paper can, however, be composted. Just be careful if you choose to do so, following the same guidelines as if you were composting cat waste

Final thoughts 

The best way to dispose of your cat’s old litter box depends on the material that it’s made of. 

  • Plastic litter boxes should be thrown in the trash. 
  • Disposable litter boxes made of paper or cardboard can be composted or sent to the landfill. 
  • Stainless steel litter boxes can be cleaned and then recycled at a scrap metal recycling center.

About Matthew Alexander

Matthew lives in Maryland with his two cats, Puff and Pancho. He’s been caring for and fostering cats with various special needs for more than fifteen years. He hopes to pass some of the insight and knowledge that he’s gained on to the readers of Pawmore.