Metal Recycling: Do I have to remove the labels from soup cans?

Q&A with Karissa Jones

When it comes to recycling metal, all you need is a little information and a “can-do” attitude—especially when recycling—you guessed it—cans! 

What do my aluminum cans turn into when they are recycled?

Cans made with tin and aluminum, like soup and soda cans, most often become new cans. That’s why aluminum is one of the most important materials to recycle! Unlike paper, aluminum never wears out and can be recycled forever. That is excellent news because recycling aluminum saves 95% of the energy required to produce new cans from raw materials.  

Do I have to take off the labels?

No, we recommend leaving them on. Labels are usually too small to be recycled as paper, so save yourself time and energy and leave them on the cans. The labels will burn off in the process of melting down and recycling the metal.

Can I recycle lids from cans and bottles? 

Yes! Metal lids from glass bottles and soup cans are accepted in your curbside bin. However, before you toss the lids in loose, try this handy trick: grab a clean and empty soup can, put the lid or lids inside and crimp the top closed. That will prevent lids from falling onto the ground during transportation and sorting, ensuring they will be recycled. 

Can I recycle aluminum foil?

Yes! Burn marks and holes won’t affect its ability to be recycled but remember that recyclables should always be free of food particles, and foil is no different. 

Aluminum is light material so once it’s clean and dry, compress the foil into a ball to make it easier to sort. Plus, you can practice your basketball skills when tossing it in your recycling cart! 

Now that you know the ins and outs of metal recycling, here are some final words of wisdom to make sure you’re Recycling Right:

  • Recyclables should always be loose in the cart. Please don’t put them in plastic bags! Plastic bags wrap around equipment at recycling facilities and must be manually cut away. That brings recycling to a halt, forcing shutdowns at recycling plants and adding unnecessary costs to local recycling programs.
  • If you’re not sure if something is recyclable, check your local guide at wmnorthwest.com. When in doubt, throw it out! It’s better to throw something in the trash and avoid the risk of contaminating an entire load of recycling. 

Karissa Jones is Waste Management’s recycling education and outreach manager. For more information about recycling and waste reduction in your community, visit wmnorthwest.com.

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