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Why crushing cans can make them harder to recycle

25 April 2019

Many of us crush aluminium cans before putting them in the recycling bin – after all, it saves space. However, did you know this can make them harder to recycle?

Whilst crushing your aluminium cans can save space (and feel satisfying!) doing so could actually be doing more harm than good for the environment.

The warning comes from Matt Meenan, senior director at public affairs at the Aluminium Association in the US. The reason why you shouldn’t crush aluminium cans before recycling is because most recycling centres use a single-stream system.

What is a single-stream recycling system?

Single stream recycling means that all kinds of recycling, including paper, cans and plastics, are put into a single recycling bin, taken away by the local council and put through the same recycling system together. Many recycling centres in the UK use this method.

Why are crushed cans bad for single-stream recycling?

The reason why crushing cans before recycling them can have a negative impact is because the single-stream recycling system relies on material and shape in order to sort recyclables effectively. 

Crushed aluminium cans can confuse the system, as they no longer have their original shape. This leads to them being sent straight to the non-recyclable pile, or improperly sorted as paper or plastic; this can contaminate the entire batch of recyclables and send the whole lot to landfill. That’s certainly not the best for the environment.

Is it ever safe to crush cans for recycling?

Yes, if your area uses a multi-stream or dual-stream recycling system, then it is perfectly acceptable to crush your cans when you are finished with them. Multi-stream recycling means that all recyclables are separated prior to recycling – they do not enter a single system altogether, so no sorting is required at the depot.


We offer a mixed can recycling collection service in Poole, Bournemouth and the surrounding areas, and will provide bins for your recycling use. We are an experienced team of recycling specialists based in Dorset and Oxfordshire. For more information about our recycling services, or for further advice on how we can help with waste disposal and rubbish collections for your home or business, contact our team on 01202 675564.

Branch Finder

Locate your nearest household waste centre and scrap yard using the list below. Unsure of where your waste needs to go? Contact our team and we'll be more than happy to help. For your local council charges visit the Oxford Council and Dorset For You websites.

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