Can Used Aluminum Foil Be Recycled?

Aluminum foil is a staple in most modern kitchens. Pliable and easily manipulated, it’s a favorite first choice for wrapping everything from a potato to a casserole dish. Foil is also often used in disposable packaging thanks to its ability to act as a total barrier against light and oxygen. It preserves things beautifully!

Because of aluminum foil, fats are kept from going rancid, moisture in food items is retained and ready-take snacks are shelf stable. Lasagnas get crispy and bubbly on top, fish gets perfectly steamed, quiches don’t get freezer burned. In other words: it’s a staple for a reason.

But what do you do with it once it’s been used? Can aluminum foil with food bits on it be recycled? 

Aluminum products are among the easiest metals to recycle because they can be melted down and turned into something new essentially forever. It’s also the most cost-effective choice for most manufacturers. Brand new aluminum is really expensive and energy-intensive to produce; recycling aluminum is much cheaper.

The main challenge is, of course, food contamination. Oil and grease can damage recycling equipment and create an inferior end product, so food-affected recyclables typically have to be thrown away. That recycling contamination is a risk most facilities aren’t willing to take.

While some companies accept aluminum foil as long as it’s been cleaned, others decide they’d rather protect their equipment than accept it as recyclable. To get your aluminum foil recycled, you’ll need to take the following steps. Even then, getting it recycled isn’t a guarantee!

1. Check if your city accepts aluminum foil.

  • Ask your local curbside pickup company if they take foil.
  • Use this recycling locator to find a new recycler if it doesn’t.

2. Clean the foil thoroughly.

  • Rinse off small bits of food (discoloration from hot water is normal).
  • Tear off sections that you can’t get clean.
  • If soiled with greasy foods like meat, gravy or butter, you’ll have to toss it.

3. Ball it up.

  • Crumple foil into a ball so it won’t get torn or stuck in recycling machinery.
  • Save and add to it over the weeks and months. Larger balls are easier to process.
  • Make sure the aluminum ball is at least 2-inches in diameter before recycling it.
  • Save foil from yogurt containers, K-cups and takeout containers.

4. Start reusing foil.

  • Save foil after cooking to use for your next meal.
  • Clean aluminum foil can be folded up and put in the fridge until next time.
  • Foil from your cooking dish can be reused to cover leftovers.

5. Eliminate foil from your life wherever you can.

There are plenty of reusable alternatives to aluminum foil.

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87 comments

William T
William T5 days ago

thanks for sharing

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Gabriel C
Gabriel C21 days ago

good to know

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Pietro Maiorana
Pietro Maiorana24 days ago

L'alluminio in cucina è fenomenale, in famiglia lo siamo spesso ma purtroppo nella nostra comunità purtroppo non c'è modo di fare la differenziata.

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HEIKKI R
HEIKKI R24 days ago

thank you

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Joan E
Joan E24 days ago

Thank you. I wondered about that, and I am glad to know foil can be recycled.

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Diane E
Diane E24 days ago

Useful hints.

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Leo C
Leo Custer24 days ago

Thank you for posting!

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David C
David C24 days ago

Happy friday

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David C
David C24 days ago

Thanks

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David C
David C24 days ago

Do your best, be humble, don't judge

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