Non Stick Fry Pans Are Choking Our Planet

Impact On Our Environment

We’ve run the math and in any given year 3,575,888 coated fry pans are thrown away in Canada….per year.  

The latest stats show that as of 2017 there were 17,028,039 of us Canadians between the age of 25 to 60.  This is also the age of the majority of our customers at Cook Culture, and arguably the average age of people that buy cookware.

It’s said that 90% of people buy coated fry pans – so this is possibly 15,028,235 Canadians. And maybe 70% live in relationships and share cookware which makes the number of people buying fry pans 10,325,664.

Now, it’s widely accepted, and anticipated by some companies, that the average home cook will discard a coated fry pan every 3 years because it’s warn out.

These numbers do not take into account the restaurant and hospitality industry.

I find this number stunning – over 3.5 million pans per year are unnecessarily discarded.  It seems to me to be a massive unnecessary waste. 

I’ve found that there is a load of misinformation in the market, and that very few retailers are giving the general public the straight facts. I will do my best to be clear about chemical coated pans from my experience. All non stick pans are made from Petroleum, even if the surface is made with ‘titanium’ or ‘diamonds’. These are materials that are added for durability but what is not clearly communicated in the marketing of these ‘high end’ pans is that the non stick property is petroleum based. There isn’t a brand on the market that will not become garbage within a few years.

But what about Ceramic Coated Pans? Years ago I really hoped that they were the answer to the problem of chemical pans but over time we’ve had them wear out and become garbage too. All, brands, none of them, last.

Through my time in the housewares industry, which started in the 90’s, I’ve used many pans and seen many trends in coatings come and go. Over the many years I’ve watched a huge amount of waste build because of my industry. My industry has allowed petroleum based cookware to continue to be consumed without scrutiny. I’m not entirely sure of the exact cost to the planet to make a pan but I am fairly certain that buying the same pan, made with chemicals and petroleum, over and over throughout a lifetime is way, way, too much.

Over consumption, waste, taking from our planet and poisoning our environment, just to have slide out eggs is no longer reasonable – and it’s a shame it ever was, but as my dear mother says, you can’t trade backwards. Wholesale change it necessary.

Impact on ourselves

I realize that this is harsh for me to acknowledge but very few people selling coated cookware really care if coated pans are toxic. Selling cookware is about making money and more people buying fry pans, more often, is better for the bottom line.

There are countless statements from people that position themselves as an authority on health that clearly state that ‘Teflon’ coated pans are ‘safe’. Also, every retailer anywhere will sell some sort of coated pan that is ‘safer’ than something else. I’ve found this really confusing as the ‘science’ that they would refer to is limited or inconclusive. The questionable studies, paid for buy the industry, allows retailers to be complacent. 

Quite a few years ago I began to question and research the health effects of petroleum based cookware. I went on a journey to understand why the research of Teflon is so murky. I first spoke to all of my suppliers and manufactures to ask for their understanding and policies. I could not find one company that relied on their own science or data to help them choose if the products they sell are safe. They rely on the data that is supplied by the chemical companies and you would hope that the limitations and restrictions of those chemicals used in the manufacturing would be based on independent research/science. However the reality is that the industry basically set their own standards back in the 50’s and there has been no independent long term studies on the health effects of the chemicals in Teflon.

You may remember when DuPont changed its formula because proof came out that Fluorocarbons in their Teflon formula had been shown to be toxic.  NO MORE PFOA! NO MORE PTFE! Like most anyone knew what that meant but now it wasn’t there so everyone is ok…? This was actually DuPont’s own internal study that proved that they had poisoned their workers and people in the surrounding communities of their factories. There was a famous Class Action suit against DuPont where their own internal studies shows that they were aware that their chemicals hurt people, and did very little, or nothing about it. 

How did this happen?     

In the 90’s, an Environmental Lawyer named Robert Billott was hired by a cattle rancher who lived close to a Teflon Plant and believed his ground water was poisoned by the factory. Billott dug deep and uncovered the truth,. Through his investigation Billott found he could prove that DuPoint was responsible, and complacent, for the contamination and brought a class-action suit against DuPont on behalf of 50,000 Parkersburg-area residents. Dupont settled in 2005 for more than $300 million. A scientific panel funded by DuPont as part of the settlement linked PFOA (the ‘old formula’) to kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disorders and other diseases. Subsequent research found that extremely low doses of PFOA (the levels approved by the US EPA and European Standards to this day) and closely related PFCs can harm hormones and children’s immune systems. PFCS pollute drinking water for at least 15 million Americans in 27 states, yet the EPA has not set a legal limit. 

You can read more about the fascinating journey of Robert Billott here

Because of this DuPont had to change the formula to something else. DuPoint changed their formula and did nothing to prove that the ‘new’ formula is safe because they don’t have to. They basically wrote the law that regulated them and they’re happy to continue to sell products that make people’s lives easier – but at what cost? They spent gobs and gobs to convince the general public that everything has been made better and that the bad chemicals were replaced by good chemicals. 

Our Mission to a healthier planet and healthier people 

Not using Teflon coatings, and the like, is not that hard. Alternatives are easy to find, but the real issue is weaning ourselves off the simple, cheap, disposable products that we are so used to using. Lodge Cast Iron Cookware and de Buyer Carbon Steel Cookware are our 2 most popular and favourite lines that we sell as straight across alternatives to coated pans.

This may be a good time to mention again that I have sold every type of non-stick cookware and over time it’s become clear that there isn’t a coated pan out there, be it Teflon, ceramic, diamond, titanium, or the like, that stands up over time. They ALL wear out.

Due to the environmental impact of buying pans to throw away, not only is it the responsibility of the individual (you), it’s the responsibility of the retailer (me). I’m using this Blog post as an opportunity to challenge my friends, colleagues and competitors in our direct and indirect industry to stop making and selling ‘replaceable’ pans. We, collectively, as an industry, are acting recklessly and irresponsibly by selling pans that know will wear out. We need to say ‘no’ to the quick sale and work harder for our planet.

I’m so optimistic that change can happen because the alternatives are easy and it seems that more and more people are willing to put in the effort to do better for our planet. It’s true that getting great non-stick results from alternative fry pans takes a bit of time and attention but is our planet not worth a few minutes of your day?

With that, we’d like to help you make a switch. Every year we have a Fry Pan Trade In Event. This year we are calling it ‘One In, One Out. For Good.’ What this means is that you bring us an old Teflon Fry Pan and we’ll sell you a new one, for 30% off retail. We will have your old pan recycled and we (and our suppliers) are putting our money where our mouth is with a hefty discount.   

Over the last 2 years we brought in over 4,300 pounds of coated cookware through our trade in program. There’s still loads to do but with your help we’ll all get there. I know that if we all put the effort into changing our habits of using disposable cookware we will make change – I’ve seen it before and believe in the will for us all to live better lives.

Please help us spread the message of change. This years sale dates are Oct 05 to Oct 31. Please see stores for more details.


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