Dear Recyclebank: Can I recycle aluminum foil? –Linda W.
Dear Linda: Aluminum itself is one of the most recyclable — and indeed, one of the most recycled — materials around. According to the Aluminum Association, nearly 75 percent of all the aluminum produced in the US is still in use today, thanks to recycling efforts and the fact that it can be recycled again and again without its quality diminishing.
While most recycled aluminum is in the form of cans, aluminum foil is technically recyclable, but there’s a catch: It needs to be clean — that is, free of food residue, as grease or food residue can contaminate the other recyclables during the recycling process. In part because of the issues with contamination, and the reality that most people are unlikely to rinse their aluminum foil before recycling it, some waste haulers will not accept aluminum foil for recycling; the damage soiled aluminum foil does to other recyclables can outweigh the benefit of trying to recycle the aluminum foil.
Before you put your foil in the recycling bin, make sure your local recycling program accepts it; not all of them do. Incidentally, usually if foil is accepted, disposable aluminum baking pans also will be. Just be sure to only recycle aluminum foil that is clean, even if it means rinsing it off first. (And as long as you’re cleaning it, you might as well reuse it a couple of times first!)
If you are able to recycle your aluminum foil locally, pat yourself on the back: Recycled aluminum saves more than 90 percent of the energy needed to produce virgin aluminum, and it’s one of the most valuable recyclable materials. Its recycling lifecycle is also relatively quick: An aluminum can that’s put in a recycling bin can be back on the shelves, as another can, in as little as two months. You can even buy aluminum foil that is made of recycled aluminum.
If you’re not ready yet to relegate aluminum foil to the recycling bin or the trash can, you might be able to give clean pieces another life — there are other uses for aluminum foil besides wrapping up leftovers.
Sources: Aluminum Association