New Study Shows Aerosol Containers are Accepted in Most Recycling Programs Available to Americans

Jul 24, 2016 | Washington, DC

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 27, 2016 – A comprehensive new study commissioned by a broad industry coalition shows that about 70 percent of Americans have the opportunity to recycle empty aerosol containers at the curb or at nearby recycling facilities. The Consumer Specialty Products Association (CSPA), The Aluminum Association (TAA), the Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI), and the Steel Recycling Institute (SRI) ), a business unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute, sponsored the aerosol study, which was part of a broader study of the current household recycling infrastructure focusing on nearly 50 different types of packaging. The study was organized by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC), a project of GreenBlue, and conducted by Resource Recycling Systems (RRS) and Moore Recycling Associates. 

The results of the “Sustainable Packaging Coalition: 2015-2016 Centralized Study on Availability of Recycling for Aerosol Containers” show that:

  • About 70 percent of Americans have access to curbside or drop off recycling facilities that recycle empty aluminum or steel aerosol containers.
  • More than 222 million people in the U.S. (72 percent) have the ability to recycle aluminum aerosol containers.
  • Over 214 million people in the U.S. (69 percent) have the opportunity to recycle steel aerosol containers.
  • Only about 10 percent of the population is served by programs that explicitly or implicitly prohibit the recycling of aerosol containers.  The remaining U.S. population either does not have access to any recycling programs or recycling of aerosol containers isn’t mentioned in their consumer education materials.

“Many consumers aren’t sure whether their empty aerosol containers can be recycled,” said D. Douglas Fratz, CSPA Aerosol Products Division Staff Executive. “The results of this study demonstrate that most recycling programs are ready, willing and able to recycle empty aerosols, and we will continue working with them to let people know how to do that."

”We’re pleased to see that so many recycling facilities around the country accept aluminum aerosols,” said Matt Meenan, senior director of public affairs for the Aluminum Association. “As an industry, our goal is to safely collect as much metal back into the recycling stream as possible which is good for our business and the environment.”

“Although we’ve always felt confident that steel and aluminum aerosols are widely recycled, it helps our industry to have data that reinforces the narrative of metal packaging’s infinite recyclability,” said Megan Daum, vice president of sustainability for the Can Manufacturers Institute. “We are grateful to the SPC for directing us towards communities that do not accept specific can types, so that we may provide proper education about how important it is to recycle each and every can.” 

Mark Thimons, vice president, sustainability for the Steel Recycling Institute, a business unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute said, “This study confirms that steel aerosols can be a key contributor to the high overall recycling rate of steel products at the consumer level.”

The study reviewed recycling program availability for more than 2,000 communities representing over 50 percent of the population of each U.S. state and the U.S. as a whole, and included all of the largest recycling programs.  

Aerosol products entered the market in the late 1940s and aerosol containers have been an integral part of commercial products ever since, providing a long shelf life and a safe way to dispense a wide variety of products. CSPA estimates that in 2015, approximately 3.8 billion aerosol containers were filled in the U.S., approximately 80 percent of which were steel containers and 20 percent aluminum containers.

Sponsors of the aerosol recycling study plan to use the data collected to inform their ongoing efforts to increase the availability of aerosol recycling, and to educate consumers to recycle all of their empty aerosol containers. The organizations will also promote enhancements in the consumer information provided by some recycling programs to better inform consumers that they accept aerosol containers. CSPA is encouraging that “please recycle when empty” labeling be added to all aerosol products to help in this education process, and SRI/AISI has a logo that can be used on steel aerosol product labels. Additionally, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s How2Recycle Label Program will begin issuing “widely recycled” labels for all aerosol containers. 

See also, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition: 2015-2016 Centralized Study on Availability of Recycling for Steel Containers.

AISI serves as the voice of the North American steel industry in the public policy arena and advances the case for steel in the marketplace as the preferred material of choice. AISI also plays a lead role in the development and application of new steels and steelmaking technology. AISI is comprised of 19 member companies, including integrated and electric furnace steelmakers, and approximately 125 associate members who are suppliers to or customers of the steel industry.

SMDI increases and defends the use of steel by developing innovative materials, applications and value-added solutions for customers in the automotive, construction and packaging markets. SMDI construction investors include: AK Steel CorporationArcelorMittal, Nucor Corporation and SSAB Americas. For more information on SMDI, visit or follow @SMDISteel on Twitter.

Deanna Lorincz
Senior Director, Communications
Tel: 248.945.4763