How to Recycle Aluminum Cans [8 Easy Steps]

One easy action you can take for the environment is to monitor your consumption of metal cans such as those found in processed foods, soft drinks, and spray products. 

Did you know that aluminum and steel cans are completely recyclable? In fact, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute, over 90 percent of the waste generated during steel production gets repurposed or recycled! 

Metals, like aluminum and steel, are natural resources that cannot be replaced as quickly as we use them. They are limited in supply, which is why recycling your cans is important. The good news is that metals can be recycled repeatedly without losing their quality.

Be sure to follow your community’s regulations regarding recycling and consult your local facility for any special instructions. Some recycling centers may prefer you to bring the cans directly to them instead of placing them in your regular recycling bin.

Let’s all play our part in sustaining our precious planet!

Easy Ways to Recycle Aluminum Cans

There are a few convenient options available for recycling your cans:

One option is to take them to scrap yards, which can be found in most cities and states across the country. 

Another option is to check if your local grocery stores have recycling stations specifically for aluminum cans and other containers.

Additionally, there are dedicated collection centers where you can drop off your cans for recycling. 

These options make it easier for you to do your part in recycling aluminum cans and reducing waste.

Image Credit:

What types of metal cans are recyclable?

Many metal cans, such as those containing food and beverages, are recyclable. Common examples include:

  • Aluminum Cans

These include beverage cans for soda, energy drinks, beer, and canned food containers made of aluminum.

  • Steel Cans

These include food cans for items like vegetables, soups, and canned meats, as well as aerosol cans, paint cans, and certain household products.

  • Tin Cans

These are often used for canned fruits, vegetables, and some packaged foods. It’s important to note that “tin cans” are actually made of steel with a thin tin coating.

  • Metal Beverage Cans

This category encompasses both aluminum and steel cans used for various beverages like soda, juice, and beer.

  • Metal Food Containers

These include cans made of aluminum or steel that are used for storing and preserving food items.

Different recycling programs and facilities have their own rules about which metal cans they accept. To know exactly what you can recycle, it’s best to check with your local recycling center.

Cleaning metal cans

Cleaning metal cans is a simple process. Here are some tips for cleaning metal cans before recycling:

  • Empty the contents: Ensure the can is completely empty before cleaning.
  • Rinse out the can: Thoroughly rinse the can with water to remove any leftover liquid or debris.
  • Remove stickers and large chunks: Use a flat object like a butter knife or plastic scraper to scrape off any stickers or large pieces sticking to the can.
  • Remove the lid and flatten the can: If there is a lid, take it off. Flatten the can as much as possible to save space in the recycling container.
  • Check additional instructions: Contact your local recycling center for any specific preparation guidelines, such as removing caps or straws.
  • Place in the appropriate bin: Follow the instructions provided by the recycling center. Put the prepared cans in the designated bin or drop them off at the recycling center as directed.
  • Clean the can (optional): If necessary, use mild dish soap and a sponge or cloth to gently scrub the inside and outside of the can. Rinse it again with water to remove any soap residue.
  • Air dry the can: Allow the can to dry completely by letting it air dry before recycling.

By following these steps, you can ensure that your metal cans are properly prepared for recycling.

What to do with the lids?

When it comes to metal can lids, it’s important to follow your local recycling guidelines. Each region may have different rules on how to handle and dispose of these lids properly. 

So, be sure to check what your local recycling service recommends for managing metal can lids when you need to dispose of them. Here are a few options:

#Rinse and clean

Make sure to rinse out and scrape clean the metal lids before putting them in the recycling bin with the cans.

#Check with your local recycling center

Contact your local recycling center to find out their specific instructions for metal can lids. 

They can guide you on whether to include the lids with the cans or if they need to be separated.

#Remove and recycle separately

Sometimes, it’s recommended to remove the lids from the cans before recycling. 

Check if the lids are made of the same material as the can (like aluminum or steel) and recycle them separately. 

Remember to clean and dry the lids before recycling.

#Secure the lids

Some recycling programs allow you to leave the lids attached to the cans, but ensure they are tightly sealed. 

This prevents any potential issues during the recycling process. It’s also helpful to flatten the cans with the lids on to save space.

#Seek clarification

If you’re unsure about how to handle metal can lids correctly, reach out to your local recycling center directly.

They can provide you with clear guidance and answer any questions you may have about different packaging components.

A quick phone call will clear up any concerns you have. Don’t forget! Your efforts count toward helping the environment.

By following these steps and consulting with your recycling center, you can ensure you’re managing metal can lids in accordance with local guidelines.

Step-by-Step Process of Aluminum Recycling

Aluminium is one of the most widely used metals today and it can be recycled many times without losing quality.

Recycling aluminum is really important because it helps save resources, reduces waste, and protects the environment while saving energy. 

Let’s look at a simple step-by-step process to understand how aluminum recycling works:

#Step 1. Collection of Aluminum Scrap

The first step in aluminum recycling is to collect used aluminum items and materials that are no longer needed. This can include things like aluminum cans, foil, packaging, and scrap metal from construction sites. 

Aluminum scrap is gathered through different methods, such as curbside recycling programs, drop-off centers, recycling bins, or specific collection initiatives. 

The aim is to gather as much aluminum scrap as possible for recycling and reusing.

#Step 2: Sorting

After collecting the aluminum scrap, it’s important to sort it. During this step, the scrap is separated based on its type and quality. Sorting helps remove any unwanted materials and ensures efficient recycling.

The scrap is sorted into categories like cans, foil, or other specific forms. This can be done by workers visually identifying and separating different types of aluminum or using automated machines that sort based on size, shape, or magnetic properties.

Effective sorting makes it easier to process and recycle aluminum into new products. It ensures that the recycled aluminum maintains its quality and purity for further processing.

#Step 3: Shredding

After sorting, the next step is shredding the aluminum scrap. Shredding means breaking the sorted aluminum into smaller pieces.

Shredding is done to increase the surface area of the aluminum, making it easier to handle and process later. Specialized machinery with rotating blades or hammers is used to cut or shred the aluminum into smaller fragments.

Shredding is useful for separating different parts, like getting rid of things that aren’t aluminum, such as plastic or paper coverings. 

It also helps the melting and recycling process work better later on because the shredded aluminum has more surface area.

#Step 4. Sorted Through a Magnet

In aluminum recycling, a common method of sorting involves using a magnet. This helps separate aluminum from other materials that are attracted to magnets, like steel or iron.

The sorted aluminum scrap is passed through a magnetic field. Since aluminum is not magnetic, it doesn’t stick to the magnet and continues through the process.

However, materials with iron or steel, which are magnetic, get attracted and are separated from aluminum.

Using magnets in sorting ensures that aluminum is efficiently separated from other metals, resulting in a purer and higher-quality aluminum feedstock for recycling.

#Step 5. De-coating

Removing coatings is an important part of recycling aluminum. Coatings like paint, plastic, or other substances can be on the surface of aluminum items or scrap.

Different methods are used to remove coatings, depending on their type and thickness. This can include heating, using chemicals, or mechanical processes like scraping or grinding.

The goal of de-coating is to make sure the recycled aluminum doesn’t have any unwanted materials that could affect its quality. 

By removing coatings, the aluminum can be recycled better and used to make new aluminum items.

#Step 6: Melting

Melting is an important step in aluminum recycling. It involves heating shredded or de-coated aluminum scrap until it turns into a liquid.

The aluminum is heated in a furnace or smelter using high temperatures. This causes it to melt and become a liquid. During melting, any remaining impurities or contaminants can be removed, making the liquid aluminum even purer.

Once the aluminum is in liquid form, it can be poured into molds to create different shapes and products. It can also be mixed with other elements to make alloys with improved properties.

Melting aluminum enables efficient recycling because it can be easily shaped and used to make new aluminum products while maintaining its quality and strength.

#Step 7: Transfer to the Holding Furnace

Once the aluminum is melted, it is moved to a holding furnace. This furnace keeps the aluminum in a liquid state at a controlled temperature until it is ready for further processing.

To transfer the molten aluminum, special equipment like ladles or crucibles is used. These containers can handle high temperatures and safely carry the molten aluminum from the melting furnace to the holding furnace.

In the holding furnace, the temperature is carefully controlled to keep the aluminum in its liquid form. This ensures a steady supply of molten aluminum for processes like casting or alloying.

Transferring the molten aluminum to the holding furnace allows it to be stored and maintained in the right condition until it’s needed for the next step in the recycling process. 

This guarantees a consistent and controlled flow of molten aluminum, leading to efficient and high-quality recycling.

#Step 8: Ingot Transportation

After holding the molten aluminum in the furnace, it’s transferred to ladles or crucibles. These containers safely carry the aluminum to the casting area. There, it’s poured into molds to create ingots, which are solid metal shapes.

Transporting the molten aluminum requires caution and safety measures to maintain quality. Insulation and temperature control are vital to keep it in a liquid state.

The solid aluminum ingots are then loaded onto trucks, railcars, or ships for transportation to another location. The transportation company ensures safe and efficient movement, considering factors like weather and traffic. 

Proper documentation and tracking systems monitor the shipment for timely delivery.

The ingots are taken to a warehouse or storage facility for further processing or distribution to manufacturers who will transform them into finished goods.

By following the step-by-step process of aluminum recycling, we can transform used aluminum into valuable resources, reducing waste and protecting the environment. 

Proper handling, transportation, and processing ensure efficient recycling, allowing for the creation of new aluminum products and contributing to a sustainable economy. 

Let’s embrace aluminum recycling to make a positive impact, conserve resources, and build a greener future for all.

Amazing Benefits of Aluminum Recycling

Aluminum recycling offers a range of amazing benefits for both the environment and society. Here are some of the key advantages:

  • Saves Energy

Recycling aluminum uses less energy than making it from raw materials, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Prevents Depletion of a Valuable Commodity

Recycling aluminum helps preserve this limited resource by extending its lifespan and reducing the need for new mining and extraction.

  • It’s Profitable

Aluminum recycling is economically beneficial, creating jobs, generating revenue, and offering business opportunities in the recycling industry.

  • Prevents Environmental Degradation

Recycling aluminum reduces the negative impacts of mining, such as deforestation, soil erosion, and water pollution, protecting natural habitats and ecosystems.

  • Helps in Satisfying the Increasing Demand

Recycling provides a sustainable and reliable source of aluminum, helping to meet the growing demand for this versatile material in various industries.

  • Continuous Use

Aluminum can be recycled over and over again without losing its quality, supporting a circular economy and reducing waste.

  • Reduction of  Landfill

Recycling aluminum prevents a significant amount of aluminum waste from ending up in landfills, reducing the need for landfill space and promoting more sustainable waste management.


In conclusion, recycling aluminum cans is a simple and impactful way to create a sustainable future. 

By collecting, sorting, shredding, de-coating, melting, and casting, we transform used cans into valuable resources while conserving energy and reducing environmental harm. 

Recycling aluminum cans benefits the environment, offers economic advantages, and meets the growing demand for aluminum. 

Let’s prioritize aluminum can recycling and make a positive difference in our world!

Additional Contents

  1. How To Recycle Paper At Home
  2. How to Recycle Video Tapes [4 Ways]
  3. How to Recycle Microwave Ovens
  4. How to Recycle Cigarette Filters
  5. How to Recycle Gel Ice Packs [4 Ways]