Vice President of Communications & Program Development for the Alliance for Consumer Education
We’re taught from a young age to put paper, plastic, metal, and cardboard in the blue recycling bin. Recycling is important to protecting the environment by reducing landfill waste and conserving resources — both of which contribute to sustainability.
As of late, conversations surrounding sustainability have focused on reducing plastic waste. However, while it may not seem as obvious, recycling aerosol containers is just as important as recycling newspaper, coffee cups, soda cans, water bottles, or e-commerce boxes.
Aerosol containers — such as hairspray, shaving cream, sunscreen, bug spray, air fresheners, and cooking spray — are made primarily from aluminum and steel, which can be recycled indefinitely into new metal products. In fact, an aerosol container has more metal than a soda or soup can because it weighs more, and is, therefore, very valuable in the recycling stream.
According to data from Keep America Beautiful, about 1 billion pounds of aluminum ends up in landfills every year. Recycled aluminum, on the other hand, is melted and rolled into sheets that are sent to manufacturers. One of these sheets contains enough aluminum to make 1.3 million new cans. Additionally, recycling steel can save almost 75 percent of the energy used to produce it from raw materials, which is enough energy to power about 18 million homes for a year.
It’s clear that recycling steel and aluminum is important for reducing waste and conserving resources. However, many people do not know that empty aerosol containers can be recycled. Aerosol containers must be empty to be sent safely though the recycling stream. It’s very easy to determine if an aerosol container is empty: push the nozzle and listen. An empty aerosol container doesn’t make a noise.
Recycling aerosol containers is a daily task that can contribute significantly to sustainability. Reducing the amount of waste going into landfills requires a collective effort. Companies invest significant staffing and financial resources into manufacturing and packaging products that can be recycled. It is up to consumers to properly dispose of these products in order to achieve a truly circular economy. The next time you completely finish a can of dry shampoo or whipped cream, throw it in the recycling bin, and think about the positive impact that simple act had on the environment.
For more information about recycling, please visit consumered.org.