Recycling Know No’s: Infinitely Recyclable Aluminum

June 9, 2023

Submitted by Liz Antanavica – DPW Refuse & Recycling Administrator

Aluminum cans are the superstar of the recycling cart. Can you guess why? 

Aluminum cans, unlike other materials we commonly recycle, can be remanufactured again and again without losing material integrity. The United States also has strong domestic infrastructure and end markets for this in-demand material. According to RecycleSmartMA, “ Nearly five million aluminum cans are recycled in the United States every hour and 42.7 billion cans were recycled in the United States in 2019 alone.” This process is also fast.

The Town’s waste contractor, Republic Services, says an aluminum can goes from recycle bin back to the store shelf in as little as 30 days! Finally, aluminum has a high value as a recycled commodity, which helps offset the costs of recycling lower value materials such as glass. 

The rise in craft beer and hard seltzer in recent years has impacted the supply and demand for aluminum. During the pandemic when many deposit redemption sites closed or suspended operations, demand for recycled aluminum cans (called UBC or “used beverage cans” in the recycling world) soared. Manufacturers scrambled to find enough aluminum to supply new cans. Demand remains especially high through the summer months. That’s all to say, recyclers want your cans! 

Other aluminum products are acceptable for curbside recycling, too. Aluminum foil and “disposable” pie plates and roasting trays can also be recycled curbside, as long as they are clean and dry.

For aluminum foil, it’s best to ball it up so that it can be sorted properly at the recycling facility. (Flat sheets of foil may accidentally travel like paper and end up with the finished paper bales.) Smart recyclers should give aluminum products a quick rise to remove food and place them into the recycling carts. 

Larger aluminum items – such as reusable baking trays and metal gutters – are not acceptable in the recycling bins. Instead, these pieces can be brought to the Bedford Compost & Recycling Center and recycled with other scrap metals. The site, located at 108 Carlisle Rd, is open to residents only on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

This summer, while enjoying a day by the pool or backyard BBQ, choose beverages in aluminum cans – and make sure they find their way to a recycling bin.

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