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How to Recycle Aluminum Foil

Foil is made from the same material as soda cans (aluminum), but since it’s most often contaminated with food waste or combined with plastic (like with yogurt tops), there’s no guarantee you can recycle it with your aluminum cans.

Aluminum Foil Recycling Preparation

  1. You want to make sure that aluminum foil is as clean as possible before recycling. While burns and holes won’t affect the recycling market, you’ll want to remove any meats or sauces from the foil.
  2. If you’re recycling aluminum foil that you bought and used for storage, separate the foil from the paperboard box and corrugated tube before recycling.
  3. If foil is combined with other materials (such as in drink boxes, candy wrappers and yogurt tops) and can’t be separated, you’ll want to throw it away. Foil mixed with other materials is considered recycling contamination.
  4. Combine all sheets of foil into one ball. This will keep the material easily separated from other products, and also prevent it from blowing away (aluminum foil is a very light material).
  5. Use Earth911’s recycling directory to find an aluminum foil recycler.

Why Recycle Aluminum Foil

Americans dispose of enough aluminum foil annually to build an entire aircraft fleet.

Find Recycling Guides for Other Materials


Frequent Aluminum Foil Recycling Questions

While most cities will accept aluminum cans at the curb, you’ll want to verify acceptance of aluminum foil. The risks of contamination will often make it undesirable for local recyclers.

There is none. All foil has been made of aluminum since World War II, and the name “tinfoil” is still mistakenly used to describe aluminum foil.

No. Even though it’s made from the same material as aluminum cans, which is one of the easiest materials to recycle for money, aluminum foil is too often used for food storage and not worth recyclers paying for it. Even if you find a company willing to recycle it for money, aluminum foil is so light that you’d have to collect a huge quantity to receive anything more than a few dollars.

If your local recycling program accepts aluminum foil, it will most often accept other aluminum food storage products. You’ll want to make sure these items are rinsed first, though.

First, aluminum of all types must be separated from steel using an eddy current in a materials recovery facility. The aluminum is crushed and baled, then sent to a metal recycler. At this point, the aluminum is cleaned and melted into sheets of aluminum, where it can be manufactured into aluminum cans or foil products.

No. While 10 states (and Guam) have container deposit laws, these only cover aluminum beverage cans, so aluminum foil is excluded.

Additional Reading

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Did you know you can recycle aluminum foil? Find out where to take it here.