Household Metal – What Can Go in the Recycling Bin & What Can’t


How many times have you stood over the recycle bin, wondering whether it was ok to toss in that chip bag, chocolate wrapper or dirty tin foil? You’re a good person for putting that much thought into it, my environmental friend. But think about it no more! Here’s your cheat sheet.

Yes, recycle it

Do recycle the following items. Note that stuck on foods can be an issue for some recycling equipment, so be sure to rinse first.

  • Tin cans & aluminum cans
  • Disposable bakeware (muffin tins, lasagna trays)
  • Aluminum foil
  • Foil yogurt tops
  • Foil inside cigarette boxes
  • Metallic chip bags & candy wrappers that DO NOT pop back to their original shape when crumpled. (If the bag or wrapper does pop back, it means the metal is melted together with plastic. It’s difficult and cost prohibitive to separate metal from plastic, so most recyclers simply don’t do it.)
  • Clean paint cans
  • Empty aerosol cans

Yes, but before you do…

The below items CAN be recycled, but because their size can be a slight issue.

  • Soda Can Tabs
  • Hershey Kiss wrappers
  • Small bits of aluminum foil

Small pieces of metal can get stuck in the recycling equipment and jam it. Keep tabs on the soda can or place them inside the can. Squeeze middle of the can shut, so they can’t get out. Similarly, small bits of foil should be put inside a can and squeezed shut before tossing into the recycling bin.

Not at home, but you can take it to the scrap yard

Check Earth911’s recycling locator for a scrap yard near you. Some communities do offer curbside pickup for larger household items a couple times a year.

  • Bicycles
  • Pots & pans
  • Wire hangers
  • Shelving
  • Patio furniture
  • Tools, wires and cables
  • Household appliances
  • Bed frames
  • Exercise equipment
  • Car Parts

No, throw it in the trash

You typically cannot recycle the following items either at home or at a public facility.

  • Metallic chip bags & candy wrappers that pop back to their original shape when you crumple it. Why? Because the aluminum is fused with plastic, which cannot easily be separated for recycling.
  • Aluminum-lined boxes that hold soy milk, soups, etc. ** Some recycling facilities can handle these — call to be sure.
  • Capri Sun packs and smoothie squeeze pouches
  • Dirty paint cans
  • Aerosol cans with liquid still inside
  • Metal syringes & razor blades (Here’s how to properly dispose of razors to avoid harming sanitation workers)
  • Nails, screws, washers
  • Mirrors (donate if in good shape)
  • Kitchen utensils (donate if in good shape)

Good to know

  • Rinsing recyclables isn’t required, but it does help to keep pests and odors away. It can also make the recycling process easier for some facilities.
  • It’s not necessary to remove labels from cans, because they will be burned off during the recycling process.
  • You can mail nonrecyclable candy wrappers and chip bags to an organization such as Terracycle. Rather than clogging up a landfill, these materials are upcycled into awesome looking messenger bags and other products.

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