Aerosol cans are a commonplace within most households. Although alternatives, such as stick deodorants are available, aerosols remain as popular as ever. Recent research found that globally we spray our way through over 25 billion cans ever single year, from hairspray to spray paint. Quite staggering figures. Will these all end up in landfill for years to come – or can you recycle aerosol cans? Thankfully yes, but there is one key caveat. Let’s take a closer look…
What are aerosol cans made of?
Aerosol cans are made from a variety of different metals. This is largely dependent on the price point of the product. Most standard aerosol cans are made from steel coated by tin – this is referred to as tinplate. More expensive varieties are made from aluminum. As well as the metal part, aerosol cans also contain plastic and rubber parts such as the lid and the tube. These are all vital to the functioning of the can.
Can you recycle aerosol cans?
Generally, yes! The metals in all common can types can be recycled. In fact, it is highly probable that the can actually contains recycled metals. The small component parts – the plastic and rubber – are separated from the can during the process. Do not pierce the can to remove them, the recycling center will deal with that!
Recycling is the best way to dispose of your used aerosol cans. Metals are not biodegradable, so composting is not an option. Popping them in the recycling bin diverts them from landfill. If they ended up in landfill, like many other materials, they will spend several decades. It is likely that aerosol cans that you have put in the trash many years ago will still be there – in fact, they will probably outlive you! With the ever-growing landfill pile, its more important than ever to dispose of your items responsibly.
As with all recycling, rules vary from country to country and region to region. For example, some may want you to remove the lid of the aerosol, while other recycling plants wont have that requirement. Check with you local recycling center, but it is common practice for them to be accepted by your standard curbside collections.
How to empty an aerosol can
If an aerosol is still partially filled or full it regarded as hazardous. Due to being pressurized, under certain conditions it could potentially explode. It is therefore extremely important that aerosol cans are empty when they go to recycling – or in the trash – to avoid this danger.
Ideally, a partially used or full aerosol spray would be given to someone else to use. We should all be aiming for minimum waste. However, if this is not possible, before popping it in the recycling bin we must get rid of the contents.
It may be tempting to some people to pierce a hole in the can – but you must not do this in any circumstances. The same goes for burning or crushing aerosol cans. To empty it, simply spray the contents into the trash. Keep spraying until you hear that distinctive hiss-like sound. That means that the can is empty, and you can now put it in the recycling bin.
The bottom line
Aerosol cans are not renowned for their ‘green’ credentials. However, in terms of disposal aerosol cans are fairly eco-friendly. If they are empty, they can be recycled in most areas – although it is always best to check with your local recycling center. Whilst more sustainable alternatives to aerosol dispensing are being developed, recycling seems the most eco-friendly disposal method for the 25 billion cans we collectively use each year!