Kerbside recycling: tins and cans

What can go into your council kerbside recycling is now the same across Aotearoa. Find out about tins and cans.   

Kerbside web cans 2

What you can put in your kerbside recycling

  • Most drink cans and food tins.

What you need to do before recycling

  • Rinse dirty food tins to get rid of the remaining food.
  • Drain liquid from drink cans. If they look clean you don’t need to rinse them.
  • Want to go the extra recycling mile? Leave the lids attached to your tins so they can be recycled too.
Tin lid with white background

Water-saving tips when cleaning food tins

  • Use a spoon or spatula to scrape out the remaining food.
  • Wash your tins when you are doing the dishes, or put them in the dishwasher if there’s room.

What you can’t put in your kerbside recycling

  • Oversized tins and cans larger than four litres
  • Paint cans
  • Bottle caps and loose metal lids
  • Other metal items (eg, pots, pans, aerosols and foil).

Why you can’t put these items in your kerbside recycling

  • Items bigger than four litres do not fit through the sorting machinery.
  • Lids and caps are too small to be sorted.
  • Items such as pots and pans are made of a combination of different materials that cannot be easily separated.
  • Aerosol cans such as fly spray, spray deodorant and whipped cream cans can’t be recycled as they can cause health and safety issues during processing.
  • Aluminium foil is usually too small to be sorted by the machinery and is often contaminated with food.

Ways to recycle some of these items

Just because these items can’t be recycled at kerbside doesn’t mean you can’t recycle them.

Paint cans

You can take your empty paint cans to Resene and Dulux for recycling.

Paintwise scheme [Resene website]

Dulux paint take-back service [Dulux website]

Metal bottle caps and can tabs

Lions clubs around the country collect metal lids and can tabs for recycling and donate the money raised to Kidney Kids NZ. Metal recyclers may also accept items for recycling.

Kantab project [Lions Clubs New Zealand website]

Find your local scrap metal recycler [NZ Association of Metal Recyclers website].

What tins and cans are turned into

Steel and aluminium tins and cans can be recycled into:

  • New tins and cans
  • Furniture
  • Building materials
  • Other products.

How tins and cans are recycled back into new tins and cans

  • At recycling plants in Aotearoa, food tins and drink cans are sorted into steel and aluminium. This is done using magnets and electric currents.
  • Once sorted the tins and cans are compressed into bales of steel and aluminium.
  • Bales are then shipped to metal recycling plants offshore where they are shredded, further sorted, melted and made into new products.

Where the recycling goes for processing

Most of the baled metal is sent overseas.

  • Aluminium is sent to Australia and Asia to be recycled. Baled aluminium cans are usually processed offshore back into cans. Occasionally some bales are processed onshore into products such as aluminium window frames.
  • Steel is currently sent offshore, often to Canada, Asia and the Middle East to be recycled. It can be recycled into high-quality steel used for many purposes from making bikes to manufacturing new steel tins.

Amount recycled

Aluminium (eg, drink cans and some food containers)

  • We estimate around 6,700 tonnes of aluminium drink and food containers are sold into Aotearoa each year.
  • About 3,000 tonnes of aluminium are recovered through household recycling each year.

Steel tins (eg, most canned foods)

  • Aotearoa does not have a good estimate for how much steel food and drink packaging is placed on the market.
  • About 5,500 tonnes of steel are recovered through household recycling each year.

Find out more