Recycling & Circularity

Aerosol containers are generally made from steel or aluminium – recyclable materials with established market demand. Recycling is FEA’s preferred route to recover the value of used (i.e. empty) aerosols. FEA advocates that empty aerosols should be included in recycling schemes. The current recycling trend shows that empty aerosols can be included in the normal household waste packaging stream effectively without causing a hazard. As a result, large numbers of post-consumer aerosols are already being recycled successfully around the world.

The following key points summarize the current situation concerning empty aerosols in the household packaging waste stream:

  • All aerosols in the household packaging waste stream are consumer products (of which 70% are personal care)
  •  Only 2 aerosol cans are found in 1m3 of mixed packaging waste
  • For the majority of empty aerosols, the residual contents are less than 3% by weight
  •  During waste collection, transport and handling at the material recycling facilities (MRFs), the risk of fire or explosion from empty aerosols is low and readily manageable unless they are concentrated by separate collection
  • Empty aerosols sorted from the total metals fraction of waste at the MRF represent less than 5% by weight out of all metal containers such as cans for beverages, food, pet food and the like

Several reports support these facts:

  •  Assessment of the Hazards associated with the recycling of retail aerosol containers, Burgoyne Consultants Ltd, 1992 (UK)
  •  Les aérosols en déchetterie, LEREM, 1993 (France)
  •  Untersuchnung des Gefährdungspotentials bei der Sammlung, Sortierung und Verwertung von gebrauchen Aerosoldosen im Dualen System, TÜV, 1994 (Germany)
  •  Recycling aerosol cans: a risk assessment (executive summary), Factory Mutual, 1996 (USA)
  • The use of can flatteners in MRFs for processing material including post consumer aerosol cans, PPS Recovery Systems Ltd, 1999 (UK)
  •  Health and safety issues in post-consumer aerosol container recycling, PPS Recovery Systems Ltd, 2000 (UK)

The conclusions from these studies remains valid today under the described conditions.

FEA welcomes the Commission’s communication entitled ‘A European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy’ as a step forward in the EU’s transition from a linear towards a circular economy. FEA’s vision for plastic aerosols fits into this strategy. Moving towards a circular approach can only be achieved through joint action by all stakeholders from the value chain. FEA is currently working with Petcore Europe to involve all relevant parties. A Plastic Aerosol Recycling Special Industry Group has been created early 2018. New technologies to further facilitate recycling and circularity are in development and should be widely available by 2020.

As new packaging materials are used, FEA continues to promote the recycling of these materials.