April 12th, 2016

Is Aluminum Foil Recyclable? The Answer is Complicated

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Is Aluminum Foil Recyclable? Groovy Green Livin

Aluminum foil made its way into our kitchen a few years ago, joining forces with other alternatives to plastic wrap. Plastic wrap has been around for generations, preserving leftovers and keeping food from becoming stale. Unfortunately plastic wrap is made from a form of plastic called low-density polyethylene (LDPE). Plastics that have been touted as safe and “BPA-free”, such as LDPE, might not be as safe as we once thought. We have no way of knowing if any plastic is safe without fully testing the chemicals used. Chemical additives have been found to leach from “safe” plastics into food and drinks. Plastic wrap also ends up in our overflowing landfills where it will likely sit for years.

Our kitchen drawer is now filled with reusable napkins and a roll of aluminum foil ready for occasional use. Last week I was asked about recycling aluminum foil. I’ve been asked this question many times, so here’s the scoop.

Is Aluminum Foil Recyclable?

Is Aluminum Foil Recyclable? Groovy Green Livin

The quick answer is yes, but of course it’s a bit more complex.

Aluminum cans, used for sodas and other popular beverages, are recyclable. Cans have the highest recycling rate of any beverage container in the U.S., much higher than glass and plastic. Recycled cans go from the recycling bin to the store shelves within 60 days. Making cans from recycled materials takes 95 percent less energy and 95 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than using new metal.

Here’s the complicated part. Aluminum foil is just as recyclable as aluminum cans, but some recycle programs aren’t equipped to process foil. Aluminum foil is many times covered in food scraps and most recycling facilities won’t accept  food covered items. Also, smaller aluminum foil scraps can clog the recycling equipment.

I just checked with my town and found that commingled recyclables (plastic, glass, and metal containers) can be placed in the recycle bin. The only aluminum that can be recycled are beverage cans, metal food cans aluminum pie plates and trays. They all need to be rinsed clean and crushed if possible. NO recycling aluminum foil in my town.

Bottom Line

You’ll need to do a bit of research to determine whether or not your city or town recycles aluminum foil. If there’s a way to recycle your aluminum foil do it! Today’s aluminum cans have an average of 68% recycled content.

Do you know if your city or town allows aluminum foil to be recycled?


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photo credit: Aluminum-Foil_14964-480×360 via photopin (license)


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