Why You Shouldn’t Crush an Aluminum Can Before Recycling It

Not crushing aluminum cans before recycling them may seem wrong, but keeping them whole is actually better for the environment

aluminum at recycling facilityHuguette Roe/Shutterstock

Crushing aluminum cans is more than just fun—it means the can will take up less space, right? Not so fast—it turns out crushing aluminum cans is actually worse for the environment because it can muck up the sorting process.

“Crushed aluminum cans may fall through the spaces of the sorting equipment and can either be lost entirely or improperly sorted,” Matt Meenan, the senior director of public affairs at the Aluminum Association, recently told Lifehacker. That means crushed cans may end up being sorted as paper or other products, says Meenan, which ends up contaminating the entire batch of recyclables.

Keeping cans as intact as possible is best for recycling. Plastic bottles, on the other hand, are best recycled crushed—and with the caps on. Here’s why.

There is an exception to Meenan’s advice, however: If your city or town uses a multi-stream or dual-stream recycling method, you can crush away. Multi-stream means that you separate your recyclables, and since all the cans go together, they can’t contaminate other products.

So, keep the can crushing contests to a minimum going forward, for the sake of the environment.

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest