Beverage Cans and Spray Cans:
Do they Recycle the Same Way?

When we talk about both beverage cans and spray cans, are they actually similar or different? Many might just think it’s about the type of can, but it’s closer to our daily lives than we think. Let’s dive into this with Aluminium Loop and find out.

Spray cans come in steel or aluminum (learn how to tell the difference!). Though both are often called “aluminum,” spray cans use a special, strong type of aluminum alloy. This means aluminium is mixed with other elements to suit various product formations. Both aluminum cans (spray & beverage) recycle forever, unlike steel cans (rust & material loss).

9 Aluminum Alloy Types! Discover how elements mix to create unique properties. here

Beverage cans use two series of aluminium alloy, depending on the function of the can body and lid. The can body uses series 3 aluminium (aluminium mixed with manganese) which is quite strong but also flexible and tough, making it easy to shape. The lid uses series 5 aluminium (aluminium mixed with magnesium), which is harder and more brittle but also resistant to corrosion, ensuring the lid stays intact and easy to open. Although beverage cans and lids are made from different series of aluminium alloy, there are techniques that allow for the entire can to be recycled read about recycling aluminium beverage cans here)

Aluminium spray cans are made from series 7 aluminium alloy (aluminium mixed with zinc), known for its high strength, lightweight, and high-pressure resistance. However, it’s used only for the can body, with the valve made of steel and the nozzle made of plastic.

Metal spray can valves
Spray can nozzles of various types made of plastic.

Spray cans are used for products that, when dispensed, become aerosol or foam, such as paint, deodorants, insecticides, shaving cream, etc. They contain propellants, either gas (Nitrogen) or liquid (Propane), which are also packed in the can. Having propellants makes spray cans hazardous waste due to the risk of explosion from the pressure inside.

Although hazardous, aluminium spray cans can still be endlessly recycled. The chemical contents of the can are disposed of during the recycling process. However, before recycling, these components must be separated due to their different materials. Consumers should not attempt to disassemble these parts themselves, even after the product is used up, because it’s difficult and to avoid the risk of chemical accidents or explosions. It’s best to use up the product completely before collecting it as recyclable waste, where experts can safely handle the separation before recycling.

Even Series 7 aluminum alloy spray cans get a second life: melted into ingots and remade!

An important thing for consumers to consider about used spray cans is that spray cans are hazardous waste that can be recycled (only the aluminium type) but don’t go through the same recycling process as beverage cans and cannot be recycled together due to using different series of aluminium alloy. Therefore, they must be recycled separately.

Spray cans that are combined with beverage cans cannot be recycled together with the beverage cans once they enter the recycling process.

So, before discarding any can waste, it’s crucial to research properly how to dispose of them: can they be mixed or not? This helps reduce the burden and risks in the sorting and recycling process afterward. Especially for all aluminium cans, the goal is to turn cans back into cans because aluminium can be endlessly recycled!

If you’re unsure where to find information about cans, consider following Aluminium Loop. We regularly share knowledge for the sake of our environment and a sustainable society for us all.

Thanks to Ango Asia Group (Thailand) Co., Ltd. for the information and images.

– ลุงซาเล้งกับขยะที่หายไป, กระป๋องสเปรย์เป็นขยะอันตรายหรือขยะรีไซเคิล, 2019
– บุญรักษ์ กาญจนวรวณิชย์, กระป๋องสเปรย์, 2011
– ChatCooling, ส่วนประกอบของบรรจุภัณฑ์กระป๋องสเปรย์