What to do with aerosol cans?

By Stephanie Collins

Aerosol cans are one the household items you may find yourself standing in front of the bin holding and thinking to yourself; ‘is this recyclable?’. While aerosols are primarily made of metals that can be recycled and the packaging may reflect that in their markings, they do not belong in your recycling bin. Aerosol cans are classed as Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) and these items must take a different path through the resource recovery journey.

At first glance this may seem like an unnecessary complication in recycling, however, the separation of items like aerosols, batteries, lighters, gas cylinders, paint, and potentially hazardous chemicals from your kerbside pick-up recyclables is very important for the safety of recycling workers.

Imagine a deodorant can as it is thrown into the back of a recycling pickup truck, tussled about with empty milk bottles, cardboard boxes, and that bean tin from last night’s dinner.  The truck with its growing charge of recyclables, aerosol included, makes its way towards the processing facility. The driver presses a button, and the holding bin begins to compact its load, like Luke Sky walker trying to escape the death star the walls close in on the deodorant can. But without a friendly droid to save it the deodorant can becomes explosive under the pressure. With a truck full of flammable goods, the truck must dump its flaming contents to be  extinguished on the asphalt.

This can be especially dangerous when combine with volatile or highly flammable contents left over in the aerosol cans, and with Australians use upwards of 250 million aerosol cans a year. These include food, beauty products, paint, cleaning supplies, and all manner of industrial and automotive sprays and solvents. That’s a lot of fuel for a fire!

To safely dispose of aerosols and other HHWs, take them to any nearby council or recycling centre which accepts them. You may dispose of up to 20L/kg of HHW free of charge at any HHW Drop off centre through the HHW program.

The Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) program is funded by the Waste Authority through the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Levy and is administered by the Western Australian Local Government Association (WALGA). This is in accordance with The Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Strategy: 2030 and all instructions for HHW disposal are consistent across Western Australia.

To help reduce risk to workers and aid in the recycling process follow these tips:

  • Empty the can by using all product contained within
  • Remove the lid (place in the general waste bin)

For your own safety when handling aerosol cans:

  • DO NOT pierce, puncture, or attempt to depressurise or damage the can in anyway
  • DO NOT remove the nozzle

There are 15 permanent drop-off centres (listed below) within the HHW program where you can drop your aerosols and other HHW at, but many council centres and recycling facilities also allow HHW drop off. Look on your local council’s website or check out the Find My Nearest tool on the Recycle Right website or app to find a drop off location near you.

You can also learn more at The Waste Authority.

Metropolitan Permanent Drop-off Centres

Non-Metropolitan Permanent Drop-off Centres


Stephanie is a recent graduate of a Master of Science Communication from the University of Western Australia. She also has a Bachelor of Zoology, has lived in four states and territories across Australia, and is always amazed by Australia’s unique ecosystems. She loves using her communication skills to encourage people to explore and care for the environment.