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Is Aluminum Foil Recyclable? Everything You Need to Know

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 be recycled properly when mixed.

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, which has taken extra effort and 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 aluminum saves a lot of energy. According to the EPA, recycled aluminum uses less than 5 percent of the energy to make the original products.

Recycling one soda can save enough energy to run a 14-watt CFL bulb for 20 hours.

Cleaning Foil

Food in Aluminum Foil

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. During my research, I discovered that food contamination could render an entire pile of aluminum useless.

I often used foil to heat things in the oven, and I was disheartened to find that the foil had baked-on cheese, sauce, and other gooey substances.  After I mashed the gooed-on aluminum into a sad little ball and threw it into the trash, I discovered that I had a few pieces of salvageable foil.

If a piece of foil has a few crumbs, 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. You should never toss single sheets of foil into a recycle can.

Single sheets can get caught in the equipment 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 to the recycling center sounds like a ridiculous amount of work, you can always personally recycle it and reuse it yourself.

Understand that aluminum foil is not the best thing for the environment. Six hundred sixty thousand tons of this pliable metal are produced yearly in the United States alone. It replaced tin foil, its stiffer twin, in the middle of the 20th century.

Rolling sheet ingots make aluminum foil from molten billet aluminum. The sheets are then put through a mill, where they are re-rolled. 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.

A disposable metal treated with radiation and coated in fuel should be used sparingly. Aluminum is among 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 that metal, which means more heavy equipment is tearing up the earth.

See Related: Is Wax Paper Bad for the Environment?

How Aluminum Foil is Recycled

Aluminum Foil Balls

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, baled, and shipped to a recycler to be cleaned again. It will be melted into sheets for cans or other foil products.

See Related: Is Drano Bad for the Environment?

Repurposing Foil

Aluminum foil recycling tips and benefits

Although ashamed to admit it, I used to toss a piece of foil into the trash after 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 buy a lot less foil.

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 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 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 foil block 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, they release a gas that reacts with oxygen when they ripen. The gas is mostly at the stem of the fruit. The foil will create a barrier between that gas and oxygen. Wrap 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 to throw them away. These days I wash them out and reuse them to store food. I also use them 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 immediately because the foil reflects the heat.

You can iron your tablecloth and the shirt you will 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 scrub pots and pans when the party’s over.

See Related: Ways Coffee Waste Can be Recycled

Arts and Crafts

Aluminum Foil Art

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 looked 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 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 objects 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 used foil.

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