Recycling

Are Aerosol Cans Recyclable?

5 Mins read

Are aerosol cans recyclable, you ask?

Good question! I wondered the same thing myself.

Are aerosol cans recyclable? I didn’t know the answer, but I decided to do some research and find out.

Are Aerosol Cans Recyclable?

Aerosol cans are recyclable. Aerosol cans use a variety of materials including iron, steel, aluminum, and plastic to house the pressurized gases and liquids they contain.

In fact, aerosol cans are safe for recycling when they are empty with just a few exceptions – like paint cans.

Spray paint is considered hazardous waste and should be disposed of accordingly.

Keep in mind that you shouldn’t put aerosol cans in your curbside recycling bin unless your local recycling program accepts them as part of their guidelines.

You may need to bring them to a collection facility for proper disposal.

How to Recycle Aerosol Cans

Once you’ve determined that it is safe to recycle your aerosol can, here are the steps to follow:

  • Check with your local recycling center for specific instructions in your area. If they do accept aerosol cans, they may have different guidelines than the ones listed below.
  • Remove the cap and press the nozzle to empty any remaining contents.
  • Check for a recycling symbol on the can (if there’s no symbol, check with your local recycling center before proceeding).
  • Verify that there is a number inside of each symbol (if there isn’t a number inside of each symbol, check with your local recycling center before proceeding).
  • Most aerosol cans can be recycled through curbside recycling programs or at drop-off locations like transfer stations, landfills, and waste-to-energy plants.

Which Types of Aerosol Cans Can Be Recycled?

Recyclability of aerosol cans depends on what type of can you’re talking about.

Cans that are made entirely of metal (such as aluminum or steel) can be recycled, but those that contain a small amount of non-metal material (plastic or rubber) cannot.

It is critical to recycle these two types separately to prevent contamination of the recycling stream.

Here are some additional things to keep in mind about the recyclability of aerosol cans:

  • If you’re unsure if an aerosol can is recyclable, check the bottom for a number 1,2, or 3 within the recycling symbol. These are codes used by the plastics industry to designate which kind of plastic resin was used in manufacturing it. A code 1 indicates that it was made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a code 2 means high-density polyethylene (HDPE), and a code 3 indicates polyvinyl chloride
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(PVC). If your can has any other number, don’t put it in your curbside recycling bin because it’s not recyclable.

Is It Okay to Throw Aerosol Cans Away?

  • Don’t throw your empty aerosol can in the trash. Although aerosol cans are recyclable, they aren’t usually accepted by municipal recycling programs because they’re considered hazardous waste.
  • You can take them to a special recycling facility where they will be properly sorted out and disposed of.
  • If you know how to recycle aerosol cans, you’ll know how to deal with the next one when it finishes its job and rolls under a dresser or cabinet without anyone noticing it for a few months.
  • You may not be able to recycle aerosol cans like you would most other items at home, but you can protect your family from dangerous chemicals and protect the environment by disposing of your empty aerosols correctly.

How to Dispose of Aerosol Cans

If you live in an area that doesn’t put aerosol cans in the recycling, check to see if your local dump or transfer station has a program that collects aerosol cans for proper disposal.

If neither of those options are available to you, put the can into your household trash.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests removing any parts like caps and nozzles from aerosol cans before putting them into the trash or recycling bin.

They also recommend puncturing two holes in the bottom of the can to prevent pressurized buildup before putting it in either place.

This will make it safer for sanitation workers who handle the can when they pick up your trash or recycling, as well as prevent explosions during transport.

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Where to Recycle Aerosol Cans

  • Aerosol cans can typically be recycled. However, you should check with your local recycling center for their policies on aerosol cans first.
  • To find out where to recycle aerosol cans in your area, use the recycling locator at Earth911.com. All you need to do is enter your zip code and select “aerosols” from the dropdown menu.
  • If there aren’t any locations on Earth911 that take aerosols, you may have better luck visiting your local recycling center directly and asking them if they accept aerosol cans.

Can You Take Your Empty Aerosol Cans to a Recycling Center?

You’re in luck because most recycling centers accept aerosol cans. If your favorite center doesn’t take them, they likely have a sister facility in your area that does.

You just need to know some best practices when it comes time to recycle the product.

To begin with, your aerosol can must be completely empty and dry before recycling it.

This is because the oil-based metal inside of an aerosol can is considered hazardous waste if it still has product inside.

Even if there are only a few drops left in a can, you must make sure it is dry before taking it to a recycling center or hazardous waste facility for disposal.

The plastic cap must also be removed from the top of the aerosol can for two reasons:

1) Your local recycling center does not want to accidentally get sprayed with liquid when handling this item;

2) The cap cannot be recycled with the metal from the rest of the can and should instead be recycled as part of your single-stream recycling bin at home.

How to Empty an Aerosol Can

  • Place the can inside a large plastic bag and seal it tightly so no air can escape.
  • Place the can in a well-ventilated area outside, away from heat sources or where children might find it, and away from flammable materials (think: dry grass!).
  • Aim the nozzle toward an open space, squeeze and hold down on the trigger until nothing comes out.
  • If you have multiple cans to dispose of, place them together in a garbage bag while they’re still pressurized so they won’t explode if they shift around and create friction between each other as you move them. Once they’ve cooled off completely—at least 24 hours later—remove and recycle them properly.”
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Is It Safe to Put Aerosol Cans in a Landfill?

While aerosol cans are perfectly safe to put in a landfill, you may want to ask yourself if that’s the best route for them.

Aerosol cans are recyclable. Some municipalities have curbside recycling programs (though many do not), and some have a drop-off facility where you can bring your aerosol cans.

If you are able to recycle an aerosol can through one of these methods, it is preferable to throw it away.

If there isn’t an easy way for you to recycle an aerosol can, don’t worry! You can still safely toss them in the trash as long as they are empty or nearly empty.

If a product has been completely sprayed out, there won’t be any residual propellant left in the container and it will be safe for the landfill.

Can You Put Your Empty Aerosols in the Bin?

Now, can you put your empty aerosols in the bin?

Yes, but there are several considerations to make first. In order for your aerosol can to be recycled, it should be completely empty.

Also, it must not have been punctured or cut open before being disposed of in the recycling bin.

If you don’t double-check that your aerosol is empty, any leftover propellant could ignite at the recycling center and cause a fire.

Final Thoughts

Aerosol cans are made of steel and aluminum, which means they’re recyclable.

There’s a catch though: recycling centers can’t accept aerosol cans that have been left open, so if you’ve ever used an aerosol product before, it’s probably best to look for a recycling center that accepts “empty” aerosol cans.