We’re still raking leaves. And as I rake, I think about the fact that every purchase we make can actually make a difference on our planet. By choosing a rake made with the right materials, you can have a positive impact on the environment. If you’re a regular reader of my posts, you might already know the answer I’ll have for this question of metal vs plastic rakes — metal wins! So what is my judging criteria? It’s not just sustainability and end-of-life scenarios that I’m taking into consideration.
When you buy a rake, you’ll likely want your money’s-worth, i.e. you’d like your rake to be effective and last a good long time. As we know from our studies of plastics in the ocean, plastics photodegrade, they break down into smaller pieces over time, and most will never ever go away. Plastic rake tines are no exception. With repeated sun exposure and certainly in the cold, plastic rakes become more brittle and crack and break over time. My backyard trials have proven they’ll do this rather quickly. The 2 rakes photographed above were bought at the same time, about 1.5 years ago. The green one lost 2 center tines early in its life and then cracked at the point where the wooden handle meets the plastic rake. The orange rake lost 2 side tines and is now cracking down the middle of the rake. I figure we’ll get another couple of months out of it. We do a lot of leaf raking around here.
So what kind of rake do we prefer? A working and sustainable one that can ultimately be recycled in the metal bin, the wooden handle burned in our fire pit? Or one that will work for a shorter amount of time and will stay on the planet forever, breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces and entering our waterways over time? I know that sounds extreme, but this is what plastics do. They’re buoyant and are doomed to become microplastics one day.
A metal rake may be a little more expensive, but it will last longer as a useful rake than your plastic one and when it has reached the end of it’s useful life, you can either recycle the metal part or use it in your garden art. We reuse our wooden handles for replacing the wooden handle of another garden tool, like another rake or a shovel. Metal rake tines can rust but the rust won’t deter you from raking. If they bend, they can be bent back!
Some landscapers prefer plastic rakes for heavy wet leaf raking and metal ones for dry lighter-weight jobs. I’ve used both for both jobs and don’t notice much of a difference. Even bamboo rakes can tackle both jobs well. My favorite bamboo rake is nearing the end of its life (probably because I left it out in the rain too often) but every part of it can be reused: We’ll compost the bamboo, the metal will go in our local scrap metal bin for recycling, and we’ll save the handle for replacing that metal rake we’ve been meaning to mend.
So when you look at the end-of -life options for your leaf rake, metal and bamboo rakes definitely win out.