Can I Recycle Aerosol Cans
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Can I Recycle Aerosol Cans? (Solved & Explained)

We use aerosol cans for a lot more things than we realize – paint, hair and cosmetic products, cooking, and so much more. As such, these cans can accumulate in our homes, garages, and/or office space. If you are facing this issue and looking for ways to properly recycle aerosol cans, you have come to the right place!

Yes, aerosol cans are recyclable as they are predominantly made from aluminum and steel. However, they require special care before they can be properly disposed of due to their highly volatile and explosive nature. The recycling of aerosol cans is also different depending on whether the can is full or empty.

The recycling of aerosol cans isn’t as straightforward as you would think. If you toss these cans in a recycle bin without emptying and cleaning them out first, they can pose a serious risk to recycling and landfill workers.

Luckily, in this article, you will learn all you need to know about recycling aerosol cans the right way and doing your part in saving our precious planet.

The Complete Guide To Recycling Your Aerosol Cans

Did you know that in the United States alone we produce over 3.75 billion aerosol cans every year? Yes, that is a staggering number but what is even more shocking is that according to Recycling International, only 30% of these cans ever find their way to the recycling center.

Aerosol cans ending up in landfills aren’t just bad for the environment, it is also a waste of our finite natural resources. As such, here is a step-by-step guide to help you recycle aerosol cans safely and in compliance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

How to recycle an aerosol can? – A step-by-step guide

Aerosols are used in many industries and for a variety of purposes. While the cans themselves are made from recyclable materials, the pressurized air inside, coupled with volatile and hazardous propellants, makes recycling them a tad more difficult.

Before you can recycle aerosol cans, you must first prepare them so that they are safe and fit for the recycling bin. Here is a step-by-step guide to what you need to do when recycling an empty aerosol can:

  1. The first step is to make sure you completely empty out the contents of the can no matter what may be inside. The best way to ensure the can is empty is to either shake it to see if you can hear any liquid inside or simply to keep spraying it until nothing comes out of the nozzle.
  2. The second step would be to remove the plastic cap that covers the nozzle and recycle that separately. DO NOT remove the spray nozzle at the top of the can. That will be recycled along with your aerosol.
  3. Make sure to never puncture or open the can in order to clean or remove any leftover product. These cans are highly pressurized and can explode violently causing injuries and even posing a potential fire hazard.
  4. Always check to make sure that your area accepts the recycling of aerosol cans with other types of metal cans. In some regions in the US, aerosol cans are still considered household hazardous waste (HHW) and may not be accepted for recycling.
  5. If accepted by your municipal drop-off program, always toss your aerosol cans in a curbside recycling bin and never in the garbage bin. Also, make sure to always read up on the rules surrounding the recycling of aerosol cans in your city.

If you are seeking to dispose of a full aerosol can, you will have to drive down to the nearest HHW facility. You can search for the nearest HHW facility through the Earth 911 database by simply entering your zip code.

Remember, you should never toss a full aerosol can in the garbage or recycling bin. If you are unsure about the rules regarding aerosol recycling in your area, contact your local municipal or waste management agency and ask about permanent or periodic HHW collections near you.

Where To Dispose Of & Recycle Aerosol Cans Near Me?

To get the best idea or information regarding where to recycle or dispose of aerosol cans, use the Earth 911 recycling database, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website, and/or the Recycle Coach app on your phone.

All three sources will provide viable and accurate information regarding the recycling policies for aerosol cans in your region.

1 The earth 911 recycling database

If you have hazardous waste building up in your house that needs disposing of, your best bet is to do a quick search on the Earth 911 Recycling database.  

Searching is easy. All you have to do is click on the link:

Dispose Of & Recycle Aerosol Cans with Earth 911 website

You will be taken to a web page where you will have two tabs. The first tab allows you to type in what you are looking to recycle while the second tab is for your Zip Code.

How to search recycling solutions on earth 911

So, in this case, for example, you will type in “aerosol cans” in the first tab. You will notice that you will be presented with two options “Aerosol Can – Empty” and “Aerosol Can – Full”. This is because empty aerosol cans are recycled completely differently from full aerosol cans and usually at different HHW facilities.

Choose the desired option and then enter your zip code. Hit search and you will see a list of all the waste management facilities that accept aerosol cans within your vicinity.

#2 Hazardous waste programs & U.S. State environmental agencies

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers in-depth guidelines and comprehensive information regarding the recycling and disposal of all types of materials in the U.S.

If you are looking for more information or seeking to do more research the EPA is a great resource, to begin with.

Links to Hazardous Waste Programs and U.S. State Environmental Agencies

Just select your state on this page and it will give you a list of facilities in your area that accept hazardous waste.

#3 Use the recycle coach app for when you are on the move

If you love traveling, camping, or are generally on the move you may want to keep up with the rules and regulations of different places.

Download the Recycle Coach app on your phone to stay up to date with recycling regulations as you move from one municipality or region to another.

Download the Recycle Coach App on App Store
Download the Recycle Coach App on Google Play

How To Dispose Of Aerosol Cans That Are Not Empty?

If you have a collection of aerosol cans that aren’t completely empty or in some cases, even full, your best bet would be to use the three sources above to find the nearest HHW facility that accepts full aerosol cans for recycling. Check to see when their next collection run is likely to be and have your cans ready and packed for recycling.

You can also choose to drive down to the HHW facility and deliver your stock of aerosol cans in person for recycling purposes. You may even get paid for it!

Why Should You Recycle Your Aerosol Cans?

As we mentioned earlier, the U.S. alone produces close to 4 billion aerosol cans every year with demand continuing to increase. With close to 70% of these cans ending up in landfills, it is essential that we recycle aerosol cans whenever possible to help reduce our carbon footprint and volume of landfill waste.

Aerosol cans, just like any other metal cans, are made from either aluminum or steel. Being precious metals, they are a finite resource but can be infinitely recycled to form new metals.

Recycling aerosol cans is also beneficial for the health and safety of waste management workers. Half-empty aerosol cans that end up in recycling or garbage bins can easily explode when crushed. This can cause extensive damage to expensive machinery as well as put workers’ lives in jeopardy.

The Benefits of Getting in the Habit of Recycling Your Old  Aerosol Cans

Aerosol cans make for a highly convenient way to store a whole variety of products ranging from food to paint. However, they do pose a significant environmental and health risk that many of us choose to ignore.

Many experts consider aerosol sprays as one of the leading contributors to air pollution. The fact that the majority of aerosol cans end up in landfills only worsens their reputation.

These cans are filled with dangerous chemicals and gasses that when leaked into the air can damage the ozone layer, lead to an increase in radiation, and cause catastrophic environmental harm.

As such, it is vital that we look into special collection programs or permanent collection centers in our community and get into the habit of recycling our old aerosol cans using the guidelines and steps provided above.

Leave a comment below about whether your country/area has a special recycling collection program!


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  1. You did not mention HOW they are recycled. How are the many various metals and plastics separated into usable recycled material?

    1. I appreciate your question—it’s an important aspect I haven’t covered yet. It could be a great idea for a future article on my blog. Stay tuned, and thank you for the suggestion!

  2. Are “empty” spray cans containing hazardous materials like paint and insecticides also allowed in recycling programs?

    1. Yes, it’s possible to recycle “empty” aerosol cans, but there’s a caveat. Aerosol cans containing hazardous materials, such as paint and insecticides, should not be tossed into regular recycling bins. Instead, they need to be handled through your local council’s hazardous waste program to ensure safe and proper disposal. Thanks for bringing this up—it’s an important distinction to be aware of!

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