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Unlocking the mystery of keys

Keys have been baffling me lately, ever since I started sorting through an odd collection of them.

Some may have traveled with me for years – no doubt from places I have lived and vehicles I have driven. One key looks like it belongs to a bike lock – but what bike lock? Another could possibly lock a filing cabinet – but not one I own now.

I also have mysterious keys that belonged to my parents. Unfortunately my father labeled everything except keys. My parents also often made multiple copies of their keys – always for me and sometimes for relatives and trusty neighbors.

None of these are cool-looking antique keys that may interest collectors or people who like to do creative things with old keys. Some turn them into refrigerator magnets. Others craft necklaces.

These are just, well, keys. There’s not a single one I want to wear around my neck.

Things were much simpler when I was a little kid with one little key that locked my first diary to keep my little life private.

Or so I thought. I seem to recall my brother telling me he could pop it open – probably with something like one of my mother’s bobby pins. Seriously, didn’t he have anything better to do?

Then came other keys: Locker keys. Dorm keys. Mailbox keys. Luggage keys. Car keys. Storage room keys. Apartment keys. House keys.

And now ... useless keys.

Google “what to do with old keys” and prepare to learn how to do everything from recycling them properly to putting them to good use in your home.

An article on suggests using spare keys in a number of ways: Tie one to string and use as a plumb bob. Use the tip to dig out caked-on mud from boot treads. Slip them into the hem pocket along the bottom edge of lightweight draperies to weigh them down. Attach a bunch of them to fishing line to create a door chime.

Pinterest, of course, has plenty of ideas. Pinterest people especially love those old skeleton keys, including using a dozen of them to create the numbers on a clock face.

What about recycling keys?

You can check with your municipality about recycling guidelines. In Amherst, for example, Highway Superintendent Patrick Lucey suggested placing keys in the recycling tote or dropping them off at the Amherst Highway Department on North Forest Road.

A scrap metal yard is another option.

“They can be recycled, but you have to have a pound of keys to register on our scales,” said Nick Marcezin, owner of Twin Village Recycling in Depew. If the keys are brass, a pound is worth $1.40. Less if they are stainless or regular steel, he said.

“Don’t expect to get rich,” he said.

You can always drop off fewer than a pound for the facility to recycle. After all, proper recycling gives closure.

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