Focus on Materials: Metal Packaging

Many different kinds of metal containers are accepted in the Recycle BC packaging and paper product recycling program. Most people know that cans and lids used for food such as beans, fruit, soups, and fish are accepted, but so are cans used for pet food. Leave the labels on; just give the cans a quick rinse to make sure no food is left inside.

Spiral-wound cans used for frozen juice or potato chips are considered metal for recycling purposes because their lids are metal and can be separated from the body of the can.

One container that you might not think of including in your recycling is aerosol cans, which are typically used for hair spray, oven cleaner, bug spray, air fresheners, or shaving cream. These are accepted if they are completely empty—aerosol containers with contents remaining can be hazardous to workers and machinery because of the pressure. Remove plastic caps and recycle them with plastic containers. The only aerosol containers that are not accepted are spray paint cans, as these are accepted as part of a different stewardship program. Contact the Recycling Council of BC at 1-800-667-4321 or for disposal options in your area.

Aluminum foil packaging is also accepted. This includes the foil trays that frozen lasagna or pies are sold in and foil take-out containers. Please note, roasting trays and pie plates purchased for use at home are not accepted as these are sold as products, not packaging. Foil take-out containers with cardboard lids are not accepted either, though if you can separate the foil and the cardboard, the foil portion can be included with other metal containers.

At the recycling facility

Once metal containers arrive at the sorting facility, they travel through a series of processes to separate them from the other containers, and to separate the different types of metal before they are bailed. Bales of separated aluminum and steel are shipped to material remanufacturers to be smelted and turned into rolls, sheets, or bars before being turned into new packaging and products.

Because of the nature of metal, it can be recycled over and over, and virtually every type of metal product has some recycled content. So, the next life of your can of beans could be a washing machine, children’s bike, car parts, or construction material.