Top Tips: How to recycle aluminium packaging

Despite getting better as a nation at recycling, there is still a high amount of recyclable metal going to landfill. Only an estimated 70% of aluminium cans are recycled globally¹, and a lot of items that end up in the tip could have been recycled.

When recycled properly, aluminium containers can be back on the shelf just 60 days after you put them in your bin!

Did you know that if items don’t belong in the recycling, or they are dirty, it contaminates the whole batch of recycling and everything has to be thrown away?

To make sure this doesn’t happen we have put together a handy guide on how to recycle your metals properly.

  1. Rinse and repeat

All metal containers that have had food in will need a good rinse. The best way of doing this is in hot soapy water, especially tins of beans which the saucy liquid can stick to. Drink cans will also need a wash, but you can easily swill these out with some water to make sure they aren’t sticky or have drinks residue on them that will contaminate the recycling.  Some items have a little ‘rinse’ on the symbol which will tell you it needs to be washed before going in the bin.

  1. Remove non-recyclable parts

Any non-recyclable parts of items will have to be removed, such as nozzles on the can, as this can also contaminate the whole batch of recycling. Products will have symbols on telling you if they can be recycled and if any parts can’t be, so you should always check the labels.

  1. Don’t stack or squash

Cans shouldn’t be put inside other items and things shouldn’t be stacked inside each other, but rather all individually put in the bin. To make more room for products in your bin many people also squash items; plastic bottles can usually be squashed, but you shouldn’t do this with cans. When cans are squashed it can make them difficult to sort, and they may be sorted as paper at the facility, which will contaminate a whole batch of other recyclable materials.

  1. Fact Check

Double-check your local council’s website for details on what can and can’t be recycled in your area so that you know what you should and shouldn’t be putting in your recycling bin! The ‘widely recycled’ symbol on items means that more than 75% of local authorities recycle the product, but your area may not, so it’s always best to check and remember to re-check if you move to a new area. The ‘Not Yet Recycled’ sign also means that less than 20% of areas in the UK recycle the product, however your area may still accept these at their recycling centres.

  1. Know the signs

Familiarise yourself with the signs and symbols displayed on products to know which sign means you can put it in your recycling bin.

‘Widely Recycled’ means that it is most likely free to put in your recycling bin.


The green circle with arrows, which many mistake for the recycling sign, actually means that the producer has made a financial contribution to recycling, and the product might have to go in the normal bin.

The loop with three arrows, which can sometimes have a figure in the middle of it, also gets mistaken for meaning ‘recycle me’. This one means that part of the packaging is recycled but may not mean that it is able to be recycled again.

The best thing to do if you see a symbol you don’t recognise is to look it up and familiarise yourself with it, so you don’t end up contaminating the recycling.

Aluminium can be used for a wide range of things, have a look at the full metals4U range of beams bars, plates, rods and more here.




For more information on the recyclability of aluminium visit ABS Ltd.