If you think aluminum foil is recyclable because aluminum cans are recyclable, You would be partially right. The problem is that aluminum foil can get contaminated by food very easily. Materials will not recycle properly when mixed together.
Food can also clog recycling equipment. The trick to recycling aluminum is to prepare it properly before you actually turn it in.
If this sounds like a lot of work, it is. I have done this myself, and it has taken extra effort and extra research. However, I have reduced my carbon footprint considerably. I figured I wasn’t doing anything that important with my time anyway.
Is aluminum foil recyclable? Recycling any type of aluminum saves a lot of energy. According to the EPA, recycled aluminum uses less than 5 percent of the energy used to make the original products.
Recycling one can of soda will save enough energy to run a 14 watt CFL bulb for 20 hours.
You can not just toss the foil you have been storing your sandwiches in on top of a pile of soda cans. You have to make sure it is clean. In the course of my research, I discovered that food contamination could render an entire pile of aluminum useless.
I often used foil to heat things up in the oven, and I was disheartened to find that the foil had baked-on cheese, sauce, and other such gooey substances. After I mashed the gooed-on aluminum into a sad little ball and threw them into the trash, I discovered that I did have a few pieces of foil that were salvageable.
If a piece of foil has a few crumbs on it, you can wash it the same way you would dishes. It is fine if your foil is charred from barbecuing. The foil does not have to look pretty. It just has to be free of food particles.
I saved my aluminum until I had an impressively large ball of the stuff. You are never supposed to toss single sheets of foil into a recycle can.
Single sheets can get caught in the equipment that is used for recycling aluminum and mess up the whole process. It would hardly be good for the environment if a large machine had to be discarded because it was broken.
If searching for a recycler, washing your aluminum foil, saving it, and lugging it off to the recycling center sounds like it is a ridiculous amount of work to you, you can always just personally recycle it and reuse it yourself.
Understand that aluminum foil is not the best thing for the environment. 660,000 tons of this pliable metal are produced each year in the United States alone. It replaced tin foil, its stiffer twin, in the middle of the 20th century.
Aluminum foil is made by rolling sheet ingots that come from molten billet aluminum.
The sheets are then put through a mill, where they are rerolled. Radiation is used to help make a particular roll of foil come out at the desired thickness. Kerosene-based lubricants are employed to keep the paper rolling through the mill. Obviously, a disposable metal treated with radiation and coated in fuel should be used sparingly.
Aluminum is amongst the earth’s most abundant resources. It is not used in the same way that other metals are because it reacts with oxygen in the air.
If you think that sounds like we needn’t worry about recycling this product, think again. We are actively mining all of that metal, which means more heavy equipment tearing up the earth.
See Related: Is Wax Paper Bad for the Environment?
How Aluminum Foil is Recycled
Once your clean, balled-up material arrives at the recycling center. They are separated using an eddy, which is a machine with a powerful magnetic field that separates metal.
The aluminum will then be crushed and baled and shipped to a recycler, where it will be cleaned again. It will be melted into sheets and used for cans or other foil products.
See Related: Is Drano Bad for the Environment?
Although I am ashamed to admit it, I used to be the type of person to toss a piece of foil into the trash after I was done consuming whatever it contained.
Nowadays, I save the sheets and reuse them for many things. This can be a bit hard to remember to do at first. However, once you get used to it, you will find yourself buying foil an awful lot less.
In addition to simply reusing foil, I have also tried to repurpose it.
I discovered that if you are barbecuing, you can ball the used foil up and use it to clean a grill. If you have a pair of dull scissors, cutting through foil will sharpen them.
I used aluminum foil around my hand soap dispenser, and I discovered that I did not waste nearly as much soap. Putting aluminum foil around the base of a plant will protect it from insects.
I love animals, and I know that I might have a major ethical problem if I ever had a mouse in my house because I would not want to kill it. I was happy to discover that blocking a mouse hole with a block of foil will let mice know to look for lodging elsewhere.
Sometimes the repurposing of one object can lead to the salvation of another. Although I always have brown sugar in the house, I rarely use it, and it tends to get rather clumpy. Wrapping it in aluminum foil and putting it in a warm oven for a few minutes will help it break apart.
I always buy tons of bananas at the store, only to have half of them go bad before I can eat them.
If you have ever wondered why bananas go rotten so fast, it is because bananas release a gas that reacts with oxygen when they are ripening.
The gas is mostly at the stem of the fruit. The foil will create a barrier between that gas and oxygen. Wrap a little aluminum foil around the stems, and your bananas will last longer.
I often order from a restaurant that serves spaghetti in aluminum containers. I used just to throw them away. These days I wash them out and reuse them to store food. I also use them as a place to put napkins, spare change, and essential notes to myself.
That used aluminum can make you and your home look spiffier. The next time I host a shindig, aluminum foil will be my secret weapon when preparing for guests. I have discovered a few household hacks using aluminum.
If you put a piece of foil underneath your ironing board, you won’t spend as much time ironing. Both sides of the cloth will be ironed at once because the foil reflects the heat.
You can iron your tablecloth and the shirt you are going to wear the next time you have people over for dinner in no time. You can also clean the ironing board itself with aluminum.
If You have a bunch of sticky stuff on the bottom of your iron, All you have to do is put half a teaspoon of salt on a piece of aluminum foil, turn on the iron, and iron the salted foil. That gunk will come right off.
A scrunched-up piece of aluminum foil can be used to polish your silverware. This versatile product can even be used to scrub pots and pans when the party’s over.
See Related: Ways Coffee Waste Can be Recycled
Arts and Crafts
I have never been one for arts and crafts. I cannot draw or cut in a straight line, and everything I tried to make in pottery class ended up looking like an ancient artifact.
However, there are many crafts that a person with an agile hand can make with foil.
Kids can make spiders out of foil and decorate with them for Halloween. They are easy to make, and they are especially environmentally sound when you think of how detrimental plastic decorations can be to the environment.
Extra-heavy foil can be folded up and put into an embossing folder. You can even use foil to make stained glass. You would be surprised at the sculptures that can be created from foil.
One of the most remarkable objet d’art that I have seen created from foil is a metal jewelry box. The aluminum must be scrunched up to make the box, so it is the perfect thing to create from a used piece of foil.