Text-only Preview

About Steel Can Recycling
Steel cans are found in every foodservice setting. The most common are the
one-gallon cans. Other steel cans, such as those seen in the grocery store, are
also found in commercial and institutional kitchens. Additionally, many glass and
plastic containers used in these kitchens have steel lids and closures. Steel
cans, lids and closures are recyclable and should be recycled. In fact, all steel
products are recyclable, and more than 65 percent of the steel produced in the
United States is recycled. Simply put, the steel industry needs old steel to make
new steel. By recycling your steel cans, you not only provide the steel industry
with a much-needed resource, you also divert material from the landfill, help save
energy, and preserve precious domestic natural resources.
Always rinse out food cans
Steel cans (and other recyclable food containers) must be rinsed for basic
sanitation reasons because they are usually stored for a period of time before they are picked up or
delivered for recycling. Rinsing the steel cans requires only the removal of most food particles. It is
important, however, to rinse cans and other containers without wasting water. No one should exchange
one precious resource for another. To make the best use of water already used in the kitchen, rinse
steel cans in leftover dishwater used to wash larger kitchen utensils, such as pots and pans. Or run
them through an automatic dishwasher in available empty spaces.
Flatten the cans for storage
Steel cans may be flattened manually or mechanically to reduce their volume for efficient storage as
well as for economical transportation. For manual flattening, trim the bottom end from the rinsed can
in the same way the lid was removed. Step on the body of the open-ended can to flatten it for
storage. Steel lids have sharp edges, but can be stored in an empty can until it is full of lids. The
can may then be crimped or taped shut for carrying to storage. Cans may also be flattened with the
bottom end intact if a hand-operated, long-lever crusher is used. These may be purchased or self-
fabricated locally. Mechanical flattening is done with a specially designed machine, which effectively
flattens all sizes of metal cans (with the bottom end intact). These machines also flatten plastic and
aluminum containers.
Recycle through local options
Commercial businesses and institutional establishments should contact their waste hauler
to negotiate arrangements that provide for dockside recycling of steel cans and other materials. This
normally means that the hauler provides and services a container for the recyclables. The cost of
this service should be balanced against the incremental revenue from the scrap value of the
recyclables and the avoided solid waste removal costs. An alternative is to work with a ferrous scrap
processor or independent recycler. Arrangements may be made to have steel cans picked up (along
with other recyclable materials) or to deliver them to a scrap yard or recycling facility when a suitable
load is accumulated.
About the Steel Recycling Institute
The Steel Recycling Institute (SRI), a unit of the American Iron & Steel Institute, educates the solid
waste management industry, government, business and ultimately the consumer about the
economic and environmental benefits of recycling steel. SRI works to ensure the continuing
development of the steel recycling infrastructure.
For additional information about steel recycling, visit the Steel Recycling Institute’s website at