Aerosol Can Top
The way to recycle aerosol spray can Oct 14, 2022

As long as you look carefully, there are many aerosol products in our daily life, such as spray paints, cleaners, insect sprays, cooking sprays and deodorants. Recycling an empty spray can may be as simple as throwing it into your curbside recycling bin. Recycling an entire can may require a trip to a local household hazardous waste facility. But no matter what condition your jar is in, it can be recycled.

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But before we can recycle, we need to clear up a few things.

What are aerosol cans?

Today, aerosol cans are made of either steel or aluminum. They have a plastic spray top and a plastic lid, and may contain a small piece of metal to help mix the product when the can is shaken. Inside the can is a liquid or gas that shoots out at a high rate of speed thanks to a chemical used as a propellant. In the past, chlorofluorocarbons (also known as CFCs) were the most common propellant. When people realized CFCs were one of the primary gases destroying the ozone layer, they were banned in most countries and aerosol can manufacturers were forced to find another propellant. Today, food products use carbon dioxide or nitrous oxide as propellants, while others use propane or butane as the propellant. CFCs in very small quantities are still approved for a few uses, including asthma inhalers.

Why should I recycle aerosol cans?

You should recycle an empty aerosol can because the metal is fully recyclable and can be put back to use as new products. However, you should absolutely not recycle a can that is not empty because it can explode. Aerosol cans with even a little paint or bug spray still contain some of that propellant, and they can blow up under pressure, injuring sanitation workers or damaging equipment. In addition, insecticides and other dangerous chemicals left in the can need to be disposed of in a way that will not hurt the environment.

How to recycle aerosol cans?

If possible, use up all the material in your can. Empty aerosol cans are treated like any other type of steel or aluminum can. The process for recycling full aerosol cans is simple. Using special equipment punches a hole in the can and allows any remaining liquid to drain out. The liquid is kept in a secure container so it can be disposed of properly. The empty metal can is sent to a metal recycler. Your task is to get that full can to someone qualified to recycle it. In most cases, that recycler will be your community's household hazardous waste center. Be sure and check with your local program to determine its hours, fees and if it has limits on the quantity of material it will accept at any given time. 

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