Recycle Aerosol Cans and Save Money

Aerosol cans are a common staple of modern industry – but is there an easy way to recycle aerosol cans? Because their contents are paints, lubricants, pesticides, etc., the spent cans are considered hazardous waste. Even when “empty” because they almost always have some residual liquid left in the can. Plus, aerosol cans use a propellant to make it spray, which is also often harmful.

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) covers aerosol can disposal. Companies that don't comply with RCRA regulations may face harsh fines. To avoid such penalties, some companies incorporate methods to recycle aerosol cans as part of their hazardous waste disposal programs.

Disposing of used aerosol cans as hazardous waste can be costly. Approximately 125 aerosol cans fill a 55-gallon drum, which costs $625 to dispose of as hazardous waste. And it can be an unwelcome chore. But what if you could save money by recycling your used aerosol cans?

Can Aerosol Cans Be Recycled? (And Is it Worth It?)

The U.S. produced over 3.5 billion aerosol cans in 2016, representing 437,500 tons of steel. Converting those to the current recycled steel price results in a market value of $131 million.

A university engineering study investigated the use of aerosol cans in a small packaging plant. The company used aerosol sprays with silicone lubricants to prevent sticking on packaging line conveyors. Annually, the plant purchased over 4,000 cans, including 1,500 cans of lubricant. The investigation found if they recycled aerosol cans, it could reduce hazardous waste disposal costs and save the company $4,550 per year.

Consumers recycle steel more than any other material. Up to 86 percent of used steel finds its way back into production processes to make new products. Recycling aerosol cans lowers the costs of finished goods, and reduces the amount of hazardous waste generated.

What Industries Benefit by Recycling Aerosol Cans?

The automotive industry is a major consumer of aerosol products. Brake cleaners, paints and cleaners all use aerosol packaging. The manufacturing sector also consumes large quantities. Adhesives, sealants, lubrication products and many other specialty chemicals come in aerosol cans.

Municipalities around the U.S. offer active recycling programs to recycle aerosol cans. Their goal is to promote sustainability and reduce pressure on landfill sites. Some recycling centers provide collection services for communities; others have established collection points.

But, only cans emptied according to RCRA requirements can be recycled.

How to Recycle Aerosol Cans Safely

Justrite offers multiple Aerosolv recycling systems that prepare aerosol cans for recycling. The system has two parts which mount onto standard 55- or 30-gallon drum fittings. A puncturing device punches a hole in the can, allowing the remaining contents to pour into the drum. At the same time, a combination filter ensures that no harmful gases escape. It captures odors as well as VOCs from the propellant that remains in the can.

Once emptied, the can is no longer hazardous and is ready for recycling. The Aerosolv solution turns empty aerosol cans into recyclable steel.

Cost Savings through Aerosolv

If you puncture the aerosol can using an Aerosolv system, the residual hazardous liquid drains into the drum. A single 55-gallon drum holds the residual liquid of around 4000 aerosol cans. Disposing of the single drum of liquid hazardous waste runs about $360. That breaks down to 9 cents per can.

However, if you disposed of all 4000 cans as solid hazardous waste, you would generate 32 drums of waste and incur a cost of $20,000 – roughly $5 per can!

The math is simple. Companies that don’t recycle aerosol cans with Aerosolv are spending 55 times more to dispose of their used aerosol cans than companies with an Aerosolv system! Start saving money now by investing in an Aerosolv recycling system.