How to recycle aluminum cans glass and plastic bottles for cash

The next time you enjoy a frosty beverage, take a closer look at the label. If you see a symbol that says CA CASH REFUND or CA CRV,* you’ll get more out of that bottle or can than a little refreshment. That symbol means the container is eligible to be recycled for cash.

What you get:

  • 5¢ for most glass bottles, plastic bottles, and aluminum cans less than 24 ounces.
  • 10¢ for equal to 24 ounces and larger.

Most beverages other than milk, wine, and distilled spirits are subject to California Refund Value (CRV)

What symbol to look for:

  • CA CASH REFUND
  • CA CRV
  • California Redemption Value
  • CA Redemption Value
  • California Cash Refund

Where does this money come from? Actually, it’s added to the price of the beverage when you buy it. You get it back when you bring containers to a recycling center. The CRV from containers placed in curbside or public recycling bins is claimed by the entity that collects them.

Where do I go? In most cases you don’t have to go far out of your way to recycle. There are approximately 2,000 recycling centers all over the state, many conveniently located near the places you live and work. Just enter your ZIP code to find the one nearest you.

Are recycling centers owned or operated by the State of California? No, recycling centers are not owned or operated by the State of California. All recycling center days and hours of operation are determined and overseen by the individual recycling center operator and must be posted at the center. Most recycling centers are required to be open a minimum of 30 hours per week, and at least five of those hours must be other than Monday-Friday between 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. (examples of this are opening earlier than 9:00 a.m., closing later than 5:00 p.m., opening on the weekend, or combining these). Please contact your local recycling center to find out their days and hours of operation. If you would like to report a recycling center closure or file a formal complaint regarding a certified recycling center, or call 1-800-RECYCLE.

You can get your beverage container recycling refunds on a per-container basis instead of by weight.

  • By law, you can bring up to 50 aluminum, 50 glass, 50 plastic, and 50 bi-metal California Redemption Value (CRV) containers in a single visit and request to be paid by count. You will be paid the full CRV redemption of 5 cents or 10 cents on each container. Inform the site attendant of your load content and how you would like to receive payment before you hand over your load.
  • Any consumer who has been denied this right by a recycling center can file a complaint via email or by calling 1-800-RECYCLE.
  • If recycling more than 50 containers of any one material type, the decision to pay by count or weight is determined by the recycling center operator. Make sure your containers are whole and free of contaminants such as dirt, excessive liquid or other foreign substances. If you are being paid by weight, make sure the load contains only eligible CRV beverage containers.
  • Daily load limits of empty CRV beverage containers are 100 pounds each for aluminum and plastic, and 1,000 pounds for glass. If the load includes containers not eligible for CRV, the recycling center must either reject the load or pay only scrap value.

To learn which beverages are covered by CRV, read either Beverages Subject to California Refund Value (CRV) (English | Spanish) or CRV Only–It’s the Law (English | Spanish).

This article was co-authored by Kathryn Kellogg. Kathryn Kellogg is the founder of goingzerowaste.com, a lifestyle website dedicated to breaking eco-friendly living down into a simple step-by-step process with lots of positivity and love. She’s the author of 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste and spokesperson for plastic-free living for National Geographic.

There are 17 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article received 11 testimonials and 85% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status.

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Recycling not only benefits the environment – it can also benefit you by giving you some extra money. In states and countries with “bottle bills,” you can redeem deposits on bottles and cans by bringing them to recycling centers. Start by figuring out if you have a bottle bill where you live and finding your local recycling center. Collect bottles and cans, sort them, and turn them in. Recycling centers will pay you by the weight or number of items turned in. In states/provinces/countries with a bottle deposit, you will receive a designated deposit value by weight or count. In places without a deposit, you will be paid by the weight and material type based on the current scrap value.

March/April 2020 note: In the United States, many redemption refund operations have been suspended due to COVID-19 pandemic. [1] X Research source Stay home and save lives. Hang onto them for now, but avoid leaving them outside to avoid theft. [2] X Research source With regard to scavengers, San Jose, California Police Department says: “Although, you may feel this is a harmless crime, scavenging presents an opportunity for individuals to check out your alley, garage and home. They may want more than your recyclables and could come back later to burglarize your garage or home.” [3] X Research source Scavenging and vagrancy related to recyclable bottles and containers are best reported to the police. [4] X Research source

How to recycle aluminum cans glass and plastic bottles for cash

  • AB 793: Beverage Container Postconsumer Plastic Minimum Content Standard. Assembly Bill 793 (Ting and Irwin, Chapter 115, Statutes of 2020) requires beverages sold by a beverage manufacturer to have a postconsumer plastic recycled content standard of 15 percent beginning January 1, 2022, increasing to 25 percent on 2025 and 50 percent on 2030. For more information, follow this link to our Plastic Minimum Content Standards web page.
  • COVID-19 Guidance for Recycling Centers and Beverage Retailers Related to Executive Order N-54-20
  • Recycling Pilot Project Program Opportunities. The CalRecycle Pilot Project Program is designed to assist jurisdictions that lack CRV beverage container recycling opportunities for their residents. Recent amendments to the program allow more flexibility for operating pilot projects and limited funding availability. For more information, use this link to the CalRecycle Pilot Program web page.
  • New Reporting Requirement for Importation of Beverage Container Materials. Effective immediately there are new reporting and inspection requirements for anyone importing empty beverage container materials into California.
  • Precertification Training Requirements for Recycling Centers & Processors. As of January 1, 2014, everyone wishing to submit a new or renewal application for certification as a recycling center or processor must first attend precertification training and pass an exam.

Welcome to California’s Beverage Container Recycling Program. Whether you’re a consumer who wants to redeem your empty bottles and cans for cash, a recycling center operator who needs the latest industry updates, or anyone else with an interest in beverage container recycling, you’ll find the information you need on these pages.

CalRecycle, officially known as the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, administers the California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act. Beverage containers covered under the Act are subject to California Redemption Value (CRV), which is 5 cents for containers less than 24 ounces, 10 cents for containers 24 ounces or larger. Thanks to the CRV cash incentive, more than 300 billion aluminum, glass, and plastic beverage containers have been recycled since the program began in 1987.

Many communities in California now offer curbside collection in addition to beverage container recycling centers. To find your closest recycling center, check out the Where to Recycle Map for the nearest recycling center near you. Commercial businesses (and multifamily residential dwellings of five units or more) are now required by law (AB 341, Chapter 476, Statutes of 2011) to arrange for recycling services if they generate more than four cubic yards of commercial solid waste.

Californians bought more than 23 billion carbonated and noncarbonated CRV-eligible drinks in aluminum, glass, plastic, and bi-metal containers in 2015. More than 18.6 billion of those containers were recycled, saving natural resources, conserving energy, extending the life of our landfills, and helping to reduce emissions of harmful greenhouse gases.

California Redemption Value

Consumers pay California Redemption Value (CRV) when they purchase beverages from a retailer, and receive CRV refunds when they redeem the containers at a recycling center. Most beverages packaged in aluminum, glass, plastic and bi-metal containers are eligible for CRV. Notable exceptions are milk, wine and distilled spirits, which are not included in the CRV program. CRV is 5 cents for each beverage container less than 24 ounces and 10 cents for each container 24 ounces or greater.

Find A Nearby Recycling Center

Recycling Rates

CRV Redemption

California Refund Value (CRV) is the amount paid by consumers at the checkout stand and paid back to consumers when they recycle eligible aluminum, plastic, glass and bi-metal beverage containers at certified recycling centers. The minimum refund value established for each type of eligible beverage container is 5 cents for each container under 24 ounces and 10 cents for each container 24 ounces or greater.

Eligible

for California Redemption Value (CRV)

How to recycle aluminum cans glass and plastic bottles for cash

  • Beer and Malt Beverages
  • Wine Coolers
  • Carbonated Fruit Drinks,
    Water, or Soft Drinks
  • Noncarbonated Fruit
    Drinks, Water, or Soft
    Drinks
  • Coffee and Tea Beverages
  • 100% Fruit Juice less than 46 oz.
  • Vegetable Juice 16 oz. or less

Not Eligible

for California Redemption Value (CRV)

How to recycle aluminum cans glass and plastic bottles for cash

  • Milk
  • Medical Food
  • Infant Formula
  • Wine
  • Spirits
  • 100% Fruit Juice 46 oz. or
    more
  • 100% Vegetable Juice
    more than 16 oz.
  • Food and Non-Beverage
    Containers

When in Doubt

Check the label on the container

How to recycle aluminum cans glass and plastic bottles for cash

  • “California Redemption Value”
  • “CA Redemption Value”
  • “California Cash Refund”
  • “CA CRV”
  • “CA Cash Refund”

Per-Container Redemption vs. By Weight

Customers may request to be paid by count for up to 50 CRV beverage containers of each material type per day: 50 glass, 50 aluminum, 50 plastic. Daily load limits of empty CRV beverage containers are 100 pounds each for aluminum and plastic, and 1,000 pounds for glass. Any consumer who has been denied this right by a recycling center can file a complaint via email or by calling 1-800-RECYCLE.

Redeem Clean, Eligible Containers

Make sure your containers are whole and free of contaminants such as dirt, excessive liquid or other foreign substances. If you are being paid by weight, make sure the load contains only eligible CRV beverage containers.

Non-CRV Materials

State law requires recycling centers to pay California Redemption Value (CRV) refunds for loads that contain ONLY eligible CRV beverage containers. Non-CRV materials must be removed from the load, or the recycling center may reject the load or pay only the scrap value for the material.

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  • How to recycle aluminum cans glass and plastic bottles for cash

    Cash Payments for Recyclables

    The State of California Department CalRecycle oversees the California Redemptive Value (CRV) Buy Back Centers and In-Store Redemption programs. To redeem your CRV aluminum cans, glass, #1PET and #2HDPE plastic bottles you must bring them to an approved site.

    BUY BACK CENTERS

    There are currently two Buy Back Center sites in Livermore to bring the recyclables to redeem for cash.

    Dos Palos Recycling Co
    1565 Olivina Ave
    Livermore
    (209) 518-4771

    Refund Recycle Center LLC
    2680 Old First St
    Livermore
    (925) 606-1435

    IN-STORE REDEMPTION LOCATIONS

    There are 26 In-Store Redemption locations. You may redeem your CRV materials at a cash register or a designated location in the store. Look for a sign which is required to be posted at all public entrances.

    Name

    Address

    3760 Hopyard Rd

    99 Ranch Market

    2701 Stoneridge Dr

    99 Ranch Market

    4299 Rosewood Dr

    Banou International Food

    5321 Hopyard Rd

    Beverages and More

    5765 Johnson CT

    Chevron USA Inc

    5280 Hopyard Rd

    3999 Santa Rita Rd

    Genes Fine Foods

    2803 Hopyard Rd

    3790 Hopyard Rd

    Hopyard Shell & Car Wash

    5251 Hopyard Rd

    6155 W Las Positas Blvd

    Santa Rita Shell

    6750 Santa Rita Rd

    5775 Johnson Dr

    2787 HOPYARD RD

    Total Wine & More

    4225 Rosewood Dr

    Trader Joes Market

    3903 Santa Rita Rd

    2991 Hopyard Rd

    4501 Rosewood Dr

    3192 Santa Rita Rd

    6750 Bernal Ave

    5420 Sunol Blvd

    Rite Aid Pharmacies

    2819 Hopyard Rd

    1701 Santa Rita Rd

    6790 Bernal Ave

    Santa Rita Chevron

    1797 Santa Rita Rd

    Walgreens Drug Store

    1763 Santa Rita Rd

    If a resident has a complaint regarding Buy Back Centers or In-Store Redemption locations by emailing your/their name, phone number, a brief summary of the issue, and the name and address of the dealer to: [email protected] .

    For more information regarding the CRV Buy Back Program visit the CalRecycle Website.

    If residents do not wish to bring their recyclables to a Buy Back Center they should place their recyclable materials in the mixed recycling cart (blue lid) on their regularly scheduled garbage pick-up day to ensure that those materials are properly recycled.

    There are 1,215 recycling centers statewide that buy back empty California Refund Value (CRV) beverage containers. Most beverages sold in glass, plastic, or metal (other than milk, wine, and distilled spirits) are subject to CRV – More information on beverages subject to CRV is available here

    Is a Recycling Center or Retailer on the List Refusing to Redeem CRV?
    The fastest, most effective way to lodge a complaint against a recycling center or an obligated retailer to initiate a CalRecycle inspection of that entity is by emailing your name, phone number, a brief summary of the issue, and the name and address of the subject of your complaint to: [email protected]

    You can get your beverage container recycling refunds on a per-container basis instead of by weight.

    • By law, you can bring up to 50 aluminum, 50 glass, 50 plastic, and 50 bi-metal California Redemption Value (CRV) containers and request to be paid by count. You will be paid the full CRV redemption of 5 cents or 10 cents on each container. Inform the site attendant of your load content and how you would like to receive payment before you hand over your load.
    • Any consumer who has been denied this right by a recycling center can file a complaint via email or by calling 1-800-RECYCLE.
    • If recycling more than 50 containers of any one material type, the decision to pay by count or weight is determined by the recycling center operator. Make sure your containers are whole and free of contaminants such as dirt, excessive liquid or other foreign substances. If you are being paid by weight, make sure the load contains only eligible CRV beverage containers.
    • Daily load limits of empty CRV beverage containers are 100 pounds each for aluminum and plastic, and 1,000 pounds for glass. If the load includes containers not eligible for CRV, the recycling center must either reject the load or pay only scrap value.

    For details. To learn which beverages are covered by CRV, read either Beverages Subject to California Refund Value (CRV) (English | Spanish) or CRV Only–It’s the Law (English | Spanish).

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    There are 1,215 recycling centers statewide that buy back empty California Refund Value (CRV) beverage containers. Most beverages sold in glass, plastic, or metal (other than milk, wine, and distilled spirits) are subject to CRV – More information on beverages subject to CRV is available here

    Is a Recycling Center or Retailer on the List Refusing to Redeem CRV?
    The fastest, most effective way to lodge a complaint against a recycling center or an obligated retailer to initiate a CalRecycle inspection of that entity is by emailing your name, phone number, a brief summary of the issue, and the name and address of the subject of your complaint to: [email protected]

    You can get your beverage container recycling refunds on a per-container basis instead of by weight.

    • By law, you can bring up to 50 aluminum, 50 glass, 50 plastic, and 50 bi-metal California Redemption Value (CRV) containers and request to be paid by count. You will be paid the full CRV redemption of 5 cents or 10 cents on each container. Inform the site attendant of your load content and how you would like to receive payment before you hand over your load.
    • Any consumer who has been denied this right by a recycling center can file a complaint via email or by calling 1-800-RECYCLE.
    • If recycling more than 50 containers of any one material type, the decision to pay by count or weight is determined by the recycling center operator. Make sure your containers are whole and free of contaminants such as dirt, excessive liquid or other foreign substances. If you are being paid by weight, make sure the load contains only eligible CRV beverage containers.
    • Daily load limits of empty CRV beverage containers are 100 pounds each for aluminum and plastic, and 1,000 pounds for glass. If the load includes containers not eligible for CRV, the recycling center must either reject the load or pay only scrap value.

    For details. To learn which beverages are covered by CRV, read either Beverages Subject to California Refund Value (CRV) (English | Spanish) or CRV Only–It’s the Law (English | Spanish).

    Recycling centers are not owned or operated by the State of California. All recycling center days and hours of operation are determined and overseen by the individual recycling center operator and must be posted at the center. Centers are required to be open a minimum of 30 hours per week, at least five days a week, and at least one weekend day.

    Just because each can be recycled doesn’t mean they actually will be

    My reusable water bottle prevents me from needing to purchase single-use plastic water bottles , but that really only covers one beverage. I, sadly, do not have a tap for beer in my home, nor do I have much interest in purchasing a Soda Stream to deal with seltzer or other carbonated beverages I may enjoy on occasion. Nevertheless, I want to make my purchases of said alternative beverages as eco-friendly as possible. If I must purchase beverages in individual servings, what’s the best vessel to choose?

    Plastic , glass and aluminum can hypothetically all be recycled, and you probably just throw them all in your recycling bin and call it a day. Thing is, not all of it actually will be recycled. In fact, much of it will probably just end up in a landfill. The material most likely to meet this fate is plastic. In previous years, much of our recyclable plastic was shipped to China , where it would be processed for re-use. As of January 2018, though, China no longer accepts our waste, which is understandable, because they have enough of their own.

    But because we were formerly able to ship our plastics overseas, there are few regions of the U.S. with adequate plastic recycling infrastructure. To create the necessary infrastructure or otherwise pay for another country to take our plastic is extremely costly, and most cities and towns simply don’t have the available cash to manage it. So, recyclable plastic just becomes trash .

    Glass presents a similar, though less significant, problem. While glass isn’t currently a valuable commodity in the U.S. (it actually costs around $20 per ton to recycle, as of 2019 ), its rates of production and effects on the environment are far smaller than that of plastic. Still, only about a third of our glass is currently recycled .

    The case for aluminum, however, is far more optimistic. Much of the aluminum in the U.S. can be processed within the country, making it both cost and environmentally effective to do so here. In fact, aluminum recycling actually generates money : Whereas glass costs $20 per ton to recycle, aluminum is valued at $1,317 per ton. According to a 2019 report from Aluminum.org , consumers recycle around 50 percent of their aluminum, and the average aluminum can is comprised of about 73 percent recycled material.

    Given that cans are also much lighter than glass, transporting them is less of an ecological burden, too . You’re not going to burn in hell if you occasionally choose bottled beers instead of cans, but it’s not a bad idea to make cans your go-to. Either way, the odds of it getting recycled are much higher than with plastic .

    The Earth thanks you for your sacrifice.

    How to recycle aluminum cans glass and plastic bottles for cash

    Magdalene Taylor

    Magdalene Taylor is a junior staff writer at MEL, where she began working two weeks after graduating college. Her work is a blend of cultural analysis and service, covering everything from reconsiderations of low-brow hits like Joe Dirt and Nickelback to contemporary disability issues, OnlyFans and the types of minor questions about life like why baby carrots are so wet. She’s also reported on social media phenomena like “simps” and “pawgs.” In 2018, she published her 111-page undergraduate thesis on Insane Clown Posse, the Juggalo subculture and the subversive aesthetics of class. She is from God’s Country, rural Western Massachusetts.

    How to recycle aluminum cans glass and plastic bottles for cash

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    Aluminum cans and plastics are two of the most commonly recycled materials in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Recycling plastics and aluminum cans decreases the need for landfill space and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Both materials begin the recycling process in the same manner: collection at curbside or drop-off sites and delivery to processing sites. Plastics require extensive sorting compared to aluminum cans, but the resulting material is more versatile. (See References 3)

    Facts and Figures

    Plastics account for more than 12 percent of all municipal solid wastes, which equals 30 million tons per year. However, only about 7 percent of those plastics were recovered from recycling in 2009, states the EPA. The most commonly recycled plastics include jars and bottles. (See References 1) Aluminum products account for 1.4 percent of municipal solid wastes. The majority of aluminum wastes include beverage cans and other containers. In 2009 more than half of all aluminum cans produced came from recycled aluminum. (See References 2) Recycling aluminum uses 95 percent less energy than creating it from scratch; recycling plastics uses about 70 percent less energy than creating new materials. (See References 4)

    Recycling Aluminum

    Aluminum cans are inspected for dirt and separated from other food or beverage containers. After a refining process, the aluminum cans are melted into solid metal blocks called ingots. These blocks ship to manufacturers that form the metal into new aluminum cans. (See References 2)

    Recycling Plastic

    Since there are multiple types of plastic, each containing different materials, plastics must be sorted before recycling. The resin code, which appears on the bottom of many plastic products, indicates the type of plastic. Workers at recycling plants will clean and sort the plastics. Machines grind the plastics into flakes and immerse them in a flotation tank to remove contaminants. After the plastic flakes dry, they are melted and shaped into pellets. Manufacturers purchase the plastic pellets, which can be melted again and shaped into new products. (See References 1)

    Buyers of Recycled Products

    While the majority of recycled aluminum is made into new cans, an increasing amount of aluminum goes to automobile manufacturers. Aluminum auto parts are lightweight and increase fuel efficiency in vehicles. (See References 2) Manufacturers of clothing, furniture, beverage bottles, textiles and carpets purchase recovered plastics. More recycled-plastics manufacturing is possible in the U.S., but recycling centers are not receiving enough plastic recyclables to support increased production. (See References 1)

    • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Plastics
    • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Aluminum
    • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Recycling
    • “The Economist”; The Truth About Recycling; June 2007

    Based in Colorado, Jacqueline Lerche has been writing alternative health, natural science and environment-related articles since 2009. Lerche holds a Bachelor of Science in biology and an Environmental Affairs Certification from Colorado State University.

    How to recycle aluminum cans glass and plastic bottles for cash

    By Lauren Murphy

    How to recycle aluminum cans glass and plastic bottles for cash

    When you’re shopping for beverages, what kind of container do you choose? You have a few options: plastic bottles, glass bottles, or aluminum cans. What to choose? The decision can be daunting for environmentalists. We’re here to give you the lowdown on which of these receptacles gets the planet’s stamp of approval.

    Step 1: How They’re Made

    We see beverage containers constantly — lining the shelves of the grocery store, filling coolers at BBQs, quenching a beachgoer’s thirst. Just how did they get there?

    Plastic

    Plastic manufacturing starts off with oil and natural gas. These raw materials are converted into smaller pieces, called monomers, and are then chemically bonded together to create long chains, known as polymers. These polymers are the plastic you see in the form of water bottles, food packaging, and much more.

    To get to the crude oil and natural gas needed to produce plastics, we must head for the Earth’s crust. However, oil and natural gas are buried beneath layers of bedrock — that’s where drilling comes in. Drilling for oil in our pristine oceans and fracking for natural gas in America’s West is destroying our environment — and endangering our health.

    Glass

    Liquefied sand, soda ash (naturally occurring sodium carbonate), limestone, recycled glass, and various additives make up the glass bottles that hold our beverages.

    Limestone helps prevent glass from weathering and it’s a valuable raw material for glass containers. The sedimentary rock is typically mined from a quarry — either above or below ground. In terms of the environment, limestone mining may contaminate water and contribute to noise pollution. Limestone mining can also destroy habitat for animals who live in limestone caves, and can form a permanent scar on the landscape.

    It’s safe to say that the raw materials that go into making glass bottles are widely available in the U.S.

    New aluminum cans are almost always made from bauxite, a mineral that the U.S. gets from mines in countries like Guinea and Australia. The mining of bauxite is harsh on the planet. Miners extract raw bauxite by way of open pits — essentially, scraping a pit into the landscape and leaving environmental destruction behind. Bauxite mining contributes to habitat loss and water contamination, as well as a slew of other negative environmental impacts, like increased erosion.

    Step 2: Transport

    When getting from here to there, each container has a different footprint.

    Plastic

    The environmental cost of transporting plastic bottles can exceed even those of creating the plastic bottle in the first place. This isn’t always the case — it depends on the distance of transport — but it’s a vexing idea.

    For short distances, plastic bottles have a low transportation footprint. They pack tightly — companies are definitely responding to greener consumers and are keeping sustainability in mind when designing the shapes of their bottles. They’re also very lightweight, so shipping them consumes less fuel.

    Glass

    There’s one big, undeniable, eco-unfriendly aspect of glass bottles — they’re heavy. The transportation of glass bottles requires significantly more energy than their lightweight counterparts. Glass is fragile, too, so shippers can’t pack glass containers into a truck as tightly as aluminum and plastic containers.

    Americans love cans because they are small, lightweight, and airtight. Turns out, the planet does, too. Their size means they save fuel — more cans can fit into a smaller space and their light weight means less gas to get them from point A to point B. Because aluminum isn’t particularly fragile, cans require less cardboard packaging for transport, meaning more room for more cans.

    Step 3: Where They End Up

    Empty — now what? Each of these containers is recyclable. Here’s how they compare.

    Plastic

    The recycling rate of plastics is actually quite low — in 2017, only 8.4% of plastic material generated in the U.S. was recycled. The rest was combusted for energy or sent to a landfill where its fate is uncertain — it can either find its way out and pollute our planet or sit in the landfill for up to 500 years before finally decomposing.

    Glass

    Glass bottles are 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without loss of quality. That’s not something you can say about plastic. An estimated 80% of recovered glass containers are made into new glass bottles. Once you toss your glass bottle in the recycling bin, manufacturers can have it back on the shelves in 30 days. Plus, using recycled glass when making new glass bottles reduces the manufacturer’s carbon footprint — furnaces may run at lower temperatures when recycled glass is used because it is already melted down to the right consistency.

    Like glass, aluminum cans are completely recyclable and are commonly recycled worldwide as part of municipal recycling programs. And like glass, aluminum cans can be recycled repeatedly with no limit.

    In her book, The Story of Stuff, Annie Leonard notes that we are currently recycling only 45% of our cans. That means a lot of pit mining for bauxite to make new material. According to Leonard, humans have trashed more than a trillion aluminum cans in landfills since 1972, when such records began.

    And the Winner Is…

    If you can find aluminum cans made from 100% recycled materials, they should be your top choice when shopping for single-serving beverages. Their low transportation footprint and ease of recyclability make them a winner.

    However, the extraction of raw bauxite is detrimental to the planet. New aluminum cans are not eco-friendly.

    Glass should be your pick if recycled cans are not an option. Glass bottles are made from relatively innocuous raw materials and are, like aluminum cans, completely recyclable. Their weight and transportation footprint is their downfall.

    Plastic does have a small carbon footprint when it comes to transportation, but it’s tough to ignore the giant carbon footprint when it comes to manufacturing. Plus, the plastic that doesn’t end up in a recycling bin can be a huge pollutant in our environment, killing wildlife and contaminating ecosystems. Our irresponsible use of plastic is ravaging the planet.

    Feature images courtesy of Shutterstock

    Editor’s note: Originally published on August 11, 2017, this article was updated in October 2020.