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Are Aerosol Cans Recyclable

For those dedicated to minimizing their environmental footprint, a common question often arises: Are aerosol cans recyclable? And to this, I, as an experienced researcher in recycling and waste management, can assure you, the answer is yes.

Aerosol cans can indeed be recycled, but the process requires a bit of knowledge and effort.

TL;DR: Yes, aerosol cans are recyclable. But, these cans must be completely empty, and the cap should be removed, to avoid potential issues during the recycling process. Remember to check with your local recycling program as protocols can vary.

Diving deeper, we find the nuances involved in this recycling process, as well as the profound environmental impact of aerosol can waste.

The Recycling Process of Aerosol Cans

Aerosol cans are typically made from either aluminum or steel, both materials that are highly recyclable. I recommend taking the following steps when recycling aerosol cans:

  1. Ensure the aerosol can is completely empty. This is crucial, as leftover contents can pose a risk during the recycling process.
  2. Remove the plastic cap, which needs to be recycled separately.
  3. Check with your local recycling program. They may have specific instructions or facilities for aerosol cans.

It might be worthwhile to consider the fact that not all recycling centers are equipped to handle aerosol cans. Some might require them to be dropped off at special facilities, while others might accept them with your regular curbside recycling.

Safety First!

The need for safety during aerosol can recycling stems from two primary factors: the pressurized nature of these containers and the various substances they might contain, which range from harmless to potentially harmful.

As noted by the Waste Management Department, some aerosols contain flammable or hazardous substances, which can pose risks to both human health and the environment. Thus, ensuring that aerosol cans are handled and disposed of correctly is not just a matter of environmental responsibility—it’s also a matter of public safety.

Here are some critical safety recommendations to consider:

  1. Ensure Cans are Empty: First and foremost, make sure that the aerosol can is completely empty before placing it in the recycling bin. Spray the remaining contents into a rag or paper towel until you’re certain that nothing else comes out. This step is crucial because cans that still contain pressure or contents can become hazardous projectiles if crushed or heated.
  2. Leave the Nozzle: Do not attempt to remove the nozzle or spray mechanism. Aerosol cans are designed as sealed units, and trying to take them apart can lead to injury.
  3. Do Not Puncture or Crush: It might be tempting to compact the aerosol can to save space in your recycling bin, but resist the urge. Puncturing or crushing aerosol cans can lead to dangerous explosions.
  4. Store Safely: If you are storing aerosol cans before recycling, keep them in a cool and well-ventilated area away from sources of heat or flame.
  5. Check Local Guidelines: Always refer to your local recycling program’s guidelines. Different regions have different protocols, and it’s essential to follow the rules specific to your area.

Which Parts From an Aerosol can that can be recycled?

Here is a list run down of what can be recycled and reused.

Aerosol Can Component Recyclable? Possible Recycled Output
Steel Can Body Yes Steel products
Aluminum Can Body Yes Aluminum products
Plastic Cap Depends Plastic products
Valve No N/A
Propellant No N/A

Environmental Impact of Aerosol Cans

The improper disposal of aerosol cans can have significant environmental impacts. When aerosol cans end up in landfills, they may leak harmful chemicals into the environment. Moreover, if incinerated they release air pollution that could be harmful to the surrounding communities.

According to a study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), approximately 3.3 million tons of steel cans were discarded in the U.S. in 2018, with aerosol cans contributing a significant portion. It’s crucial to reduce this figure by promoting aerosol can recycling.

Alternatives to Aerosol Cans

A useful suggestion would be to explore alternatives to aerosol cans. For instance, consider using pump sprays, solid deodorants, or roll-on products.

These alternatives not only reduce the need for aerosol cans but are often more environmentally friendly and easier to recycle.

Why is Aerosol Can Recycling Important?

Recycling aerosol cans reduces waste in landfills, conserves resources, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. According to a report by the Environmental Defense Fund, recycling one ton of steel conserves 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,400 pounds of coal, and 120 pounds of limestone.

4 Fun and Creative Ideas for Upcycling Aerosol Cans

Before you consider tossing out an empty aerosol can, it might be worthwhile to consider how it could be repurposed or upcycled. This is another excellent way to lessen our environmental footprint while engaging in a fun, creative project.

Remember, safety should always be your primary concern when handling aerosol cans, so make sure they are fully empty before beginning any upcycling project.

DIY Planters

Aerosol cans can be converted into stylish planters for your indoor or outdoor garden. Here’s how:

  1. Clean the can thoroughly.
  2. Using a drill or sharp tool, carefully create a few drainage holes at the bottom.
  3. Paint or decorate the can to suit your style.
  4. Fill it with potting soil and your choice of plant.

These make for great conversation pieces and allow you to show off your creativity and commitment to sustainability.

Artistic Candle Holders

Transforming aerosol cans into candle holders can provide a unique touch to your home decor.

  1. Make sure the can is completely empty and clean.
  2. Cut out a section of the can using a pair of sharp tin snips.
  3. File down any sharp edges.
  4. Decorate as desired, and insert a candle.

Remember to never leave burning candles unattended.

Creative Storage Solutions

Aerosol cans can serve as quirky storage containers for a variety of items.

  1. Thoroughly clean and dry the empty aerosol can.
  2. Using paint, stickers, or other materials, decorate the can to your liking.
  3. Use these decorative containers to store anything from pencils and art supplies to makeup brushes.

Funky Wind Chimes

Craft a unique set of wind chimes using aerosol cans.

  1. Collect a few empty and clean aerosol cans.
  2. Paint or decorate the cans.
  3. Using a drill, create a hole in the top of each can.
  4. Thread a strong string or fishing line through the hole, securing it on the inside with a knot or bead.
  5. Hang the cans at different heights from a base such as a wooden ring or branch.


In conclusion, while aerosol cans pose certain challenges to recycling, they are indeed recyclable and should be treated as such. Following appropriate guidelines and considering alternative products can help us minimize our environmental impact.


Can I put aerosol cans in my recycling bin?

Yes, but make sure they are completely empty, and the plastic cap is removed. Check with your local recycling program for any specific instructions.

What happens if aerosol cans are not recycled?

If not recycled, they end up in landfills or are incinerated. This canlead to harmful chemicals leaking into the environment or potentially hazardous explosions.

What are some alternatives to aerosol cans?

Consider using pump sprays, solid deodorants, or roll-on products. These alternatives are often more environmentally friendly and easier to recycle.

Can aerosol cans explode in the recycling process?

Aerosol cans can explode if they are not completely empty. That’s why it’s essential to ensure that they are fully used up before recycling.


  • Jen Wheeler

    Jen Wheeler, co-founder of Recycling-Revolution.com, holds degrees from UC Berkeley, Yale, and Stanford. A renowned environmentalist, she's championed sustainable practices at global events and leads EcoBright Solutions, focusing on recycling education and eco-friendly products.

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