How to Recycle Aerosol Cans

To efficiently recycle aerosol cans and follow green principles, use 100% of the product inside the aerosol can and then drop the can off at the nearest recycling center.

By Maryruth Belsey-Priebe

Fact checked by Sander Tamm

Recycling Aerosol Cans
Recycling Aerosol Cans / Ecolife

An Overview On Recycling Aerosol Cans

From hair products to cleaning solutions and spray-on cheese to spray-on non-stick baking grease, aerosol cans are used in a wide variety of consumer products. The troubling thing is that most consumers don’t know they can recycle aerosol cans! Get ready to put aerosol can recycling myths to rest.

How aerosol cans are made and recycled

At the very basic level, aerosol cans are made of either steel or aluminum with a tin coating (you can tell the difference by using a magnet, which will stick to the steel, but not the aluminum). Added to the base structure are a crimped-on valve and pressurized inert gas that’s used as a propellant.

Recycling aerosol cans is relatively simple, though recyclers first must ensure the cans are empty. To do this, they often use machines to relieve the pressure in spent aerosol cans and release the product by puncturing and emptying them. After that, aerosol cans are recycled with other steel and aluminum like usual – by shredding the metal, melting it down, combining it with virgin metal, and rolling it into sheets.

Current trends show that, in general, most household aerosol cans are likely to end up being successfully recycled.

How to recycle aerosol cans

Throwing aerosol cans into landfills is not only a waste of resources. It is a potential explosion and toxicity hazard to landfill workers and firefighters. Recycling, therefore, is the safest and most environmentally-conscious option. Today, there are more than 2,000 recycling banks in the UK and 1074 recycling facility businesses in the USA. Most of these organizations also deal with recycling aerosol cans. As such, recycling aerosol cans is an easy process that can be done without spending any extra money. Here are some tips for recycling aerosol cans:

  • When your can is still full: Since aerosol products last a long time, if your can is still half full, hang onto it, donate it to a friend or a local charity, or give it to your neighbor instead of recycling it since wasting product isn’t very green. But if you’re not able to use the product for some reason (the can is defective, for instance), call the manufacturer to see if they have a full-can take-back recycling program. Alternatively, call your local recycling facility to see if they accept partially-full cans – they often have means of draining them en masse to recover or recycle the product, followed by can recycling procedures.
  • Empty out the last dribbles: Ensure that your used aerosol cans are completely empty before you put them out for recycling. If you’ve got a little bit left in the can, spray the product into the trash as you take it to the garbage bin.
  • Don’t compact: Contrary to conventional wisdom, you shouldn’t pierce, crush, or flatten your aerosol cans in order to recycle them. Yet because these cans are still pressurized, you should avoid throwing them in roadside garbage canisters or into trash fires as they can explode. You should, however, remove any plastic caps and lids and recycle those separately.
  • Recycle: Determine whether your aerosol can is steel or aluminum using a magnet, then put it in the appropriate bin and either leave it out with your other curbside recycling or deliver it to a local drop-off recycling center.