can you recycle dirty aluminium foil?

This article discusses how to recycle a dirty aluminium foil, and whether it is viable to do so. Additionally, we also discuss alternatives for aluminium foil when recycling is not a viable option. 

Can you recycle dirty aluminium foil?

No, you cannot recycle aluminium foil if it is dirty. This is because presence of foreign substances on the aluminium foil makes it hard for the recycling plant to process it and thereby make it ready for recycling.

However, if the aluminium foil can be cleaned, it would be advisable to do so if you wish to recycle the used aluminium foil.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans discarded more than 1.5 million tonnes of aluminium items in 2012.

Some of it could have been recycled, but anybody who has had to throw away a wad of aluminium foil soaked with pizza sauce and cheese knows how difficult it is to recycle.

Fortunately, Irish scientists have developed a new process for recovering aluminium from filthy foil, and they have created a product that is both cheaper and better than what is now available.

Of course, aluminium is used for more than just foil. Aluminium is used in cans, vehicles, and even your laptop.

Aluminium compounds are employed as catalysts in chemical processes to produce elemental sulphur and different hydrocarbons, which may be utilised as raw materials in the manufacture of plastics, pharmaceuticals, and fertilisers, among other things.

Our use of aluminium is also increasing. According to the US Geological Survey, we used one-third more aluminium in 2015 than we did in 2006, and our aluminium usage is expected to nearly treble by 2025.

There are a couple issues with this. Aluminium is the most plentiful metal in the Earth’s crust, with much of it tied up in the mineral bauxite, so we’re not going to run out very soon. 

However, bauxite mining may pollute streams with lead and arsenic, and the process of refining bauxite into aluminium is costly and energy demanding.

Recycling is the apparent solution, as it avoids dirty mining and requires just 5% of the energy required to produce new aluminium. However, recycling aluminium can be difficult.

Aluminium is a metal that rapidly interacts with oxygen in the air, rendering it worthless. Foil is especially vulnerable to this since it has a large surface area relative to its volume. 

Any food clinging to the foil exacerbates the situation, as the only way to get it off is to burn it, which promotes the oxygen reaction.

Chemists are now interested in recycling aluminium to manufacture aluminium-based catalysts rather than new metal. That has its own set of problems.

Over the years, several initiatives have proven to be too costly, too energy consuming, or have resulted in dangerous consequences.

Aluminium foil was dissolved with hydrochloric acid, and aluminium chloride crystals were formed. 

They transformed them into alumina catalysts that were twice as pure as the commercially available version and had a greater surface area, which improves catalytic performance.

How is aluminium foil made

Aluminium foil is made up of 98.5 percent aluminium and the rest is made up of iron and silicon for strength and puncture resistance.

Between massive, water-cooled chill rollers, the molten alloy is rolled thin and solidified. Two layers of foil are rolled through the mill at the same time during the final rolling. 

The side that comes into touch with the polished steel rollers becomes gleaming, while the opposite side becomes dull. It makes no difference which side of the foil comes into touch with the food.

Recycling aluminium

Once the aluminium foil has been used to its maximum potential, it should be safely disposed of. Since aluminium is difficult to procure in the market, recycling the used aluminium foil is the best option.

In order to recycle a used aluminium foil, you need to follow the steps mentioned below.

  • Before recycling aluminium foil, you’ll want to make sure it’s as clean as possible. While burns and holes won’t hinder the recycling market, any meats or sauces should be removed from the foil.
  • Separate the foil from the paperboard box and corrugated tube before recycling aluminium foil that you bought and used for storage.
  • If foil is mixed with other materials and can’t be separated (as in drink boxes, candy wrappers, and yoghurt lids), it should be discarded. Foil that has been combined with other materials is called contamination in the recycling process.
  • Roll up all of the foil sheets into a ball. This will protect the material from becoming mixed up with other items and will also keep it from blowing away, since aluminium foil is a very light material.

Alternative for aluminium foil – reusing

Because of the significant quantity of power required to process bauxite ore, extracting aluminium has a high resource cost. Companies like If You Care and Reynolds sell recycled aluminium foil, but don’t stop there. 

Aluminium foil is far less environmentally friendly than its relative in covering, plastic wrap, yet it is still useful for grilling fragile foods and other situations where rapid conductivity is required.

Aluminium can be recycled indefinitely, and you can start by repurposing your home aluminium foil once it has served its original use in the kitchen with one of the inventive ideas below.

For optimal results, wash used aluminium foil in the dishwasher or with warm water and soap before “ironing” it flat with a rolling pin. 

However, one should keep in mind that once an aluminium foil has come into contact with raw meat, it should never be used again for any other activity.

How to reuse aluminium foil

People use aluminium foil for a variety of things, including covering a dish, pie crusts, lasagna, and so on. However, the foil is rarely utilised again. 

You might be shocked to learn that you can reuse the foil sheet after cleaning it. Once the foil has served its primary use, an aluminium foil can be reused in the following ways:

  • Deter Garden pests
  • Toys
  • Scrubber
  • Ironing
  • Cleaning silver and jewellery
  • Sharpen scissors
  • Re-glue vinyl tiles
  • Catch drippings or ashes in fireplace or grill
  • While painting
  • Reduce static cling

We shall discuss these in more detail.

Deter Garden Pests

Birds, insects, and other animals will be deterred if you place foil collars around the base of plants or dole it out in strips in your garden. To keep insects from creeping up the plant’s base stem, just wrap a foil sheet around it.

Another option is to use aluminium foil to form a barrier between any cracks or fissures in your door, walls, or near windows. Insects and rodents will be less likely to access your home as a result of this.


If you have children, you may challenge them to form and then reshape the foil into metallic toys such as robots, sailor hats, balls, spaceships, hot rods, and so on. 

This will encourage your child to not only reuse the foil, but also to utilise their imagination to make unique toys for themselves. Furthermore, the toy may be moulded and transformed into a different one.


If your pans, pots, drills, or oven doors are filthy. Aluminum foil may be used to clean them all. How? Simply compress it, add baking soda, and use it as a cleaning agent. It also removes rust off chrome and steel, which is a plus.


All you have to do is slip a foil sheet beneath the ironing board cover to enhance ironing and flatten those stubborn creases. The foil reflects the iron’s heat, heating the cloth from the bottom and efficiently eradicating wrinkles.

Cleaning Silver and Jewellery

Line a basin with aluminium foil and fill it halfway with boiling water. Then add some baking soda or bleach-free detergent powder. Mix everything up thoroughly. It’s where you’ll put your jewellery or silverware. 

Simply pause for a moment. Allow the objects to air dry after removing them from the solution. Without even scrubbing, this will clean your jewellery or silverware.

Sharpen Scissors

This hack will help you if you have a pair of dull scissors laying around your house or if you want a precise cut every time. Fold a used piece of foil seven or eight times to make a new one. 

Then cut it numerous times with the scissors, or slice the blades multiple times over the folded foil strip. Your scissors will have sharper blades as a result.

Re-glue Vinyl Tiles

Self-stick vinyl tiles might loosen when their adhesive responds to temperature or moisture changes. If you have a loose tile, cover it with aluminium foil and iron it with a regular iron.

In the absence of foil, the iron may burn the tile. The adhesive will melt and the tile will stick again if you iron it. Place books or a hefty weight on top of it, or tape it in place until it cools, and it should stay put.

Catch Drippings or Ashes in the Fireplace or Grill

Fold a discarded foil sheet in half to make it more robust. Place the folded sheet beneath the grill of your fireplace grate or even the charcoal of your grill. 

After you’ve finished using the fireplace or grill, allow it to cool before collecting the ashes in the foil for simple cleanup.

While Painting

Use foil instead of duct tape to prevent fixtures and doorknobs from dripping paint when painting your house or anything else. You may also use crumpled foil to create texture to a wall while painting.


Aluminium foil can be recycled. However, the foil should be cleaned before it is given for recycling, as dirty aluminium foils are not used, thereby ending up in landfills.

When recycling is not a viable option, aluminium foil can also be repurposed for various other activities around the house, given its versatile nature.


Can I recycle aluminium foil in my curbside recycling program?

Yes, you can recycle aluminium foil in your curbside recycling program. However, while most communities take aluminium cans at the curb, you should double-check for aluminium foil acceptance. Local recyclers will typically avoid it due to the possibility of contamination.

How is aluminium foil recycled?

Aluminium of all sorts must first be separated from steel in a materials recovery plant using an eddy current. After being crushed and baled, the aluminium is shipped to a metal recycler. The metal is then cleaned and melted into sheets, which may then be made into aluminium cans or foil items.

How many times can you reuse aluminium foil?

You can basically reuse your sheet of foil indefinitely as long as you don’t rip it and have clean sides to deal with. However, if you rip your clean foil, it may still be used in a variety of ways. Cut through the layers to sharpen scissors or compress it into a ball to serve as a pot scrubber.


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