Recycling Paper Cans
is Easier Than You Think

Recycling Paper Cans
is Easier Than You Think

Man opening a paper can of coffee beans.

New sustainable paper packaging is getting developed every day to improve recycling rates and make the process easier for consumers to make eco-friendly choices. A tried-and-true sustainable packaging choice comes in the form of a paper can. Think of these spiral cans for coffee, powered beverages, nuts, chips and pet treats. Paper cans are made with a recyclable plastic lid, paper body and a steel base, making them recyclable. However, you should always check your local recycling guidelines first. 

Woman grabbing peanuts out of a paper can.

How are paper cans recyclable if they use multiple materials?

There are many mixed material packaged products that are able to be recycled. Paper cans are most commonly recycled in the steel stream, where their paper bodies and labels are incinerated, leaving the steel bottoms to be recycled into new steel products. The incinerated paper and other non-metal components can provide a small amount of energy during the recycling process. Through this process, up to 99% of steel from paper cans is able to be captured. However, they are increasingly being accepted into the paper recycling stream where they can be made into new paper products.

To learn more about paper cans, check out the Paper Cans Can project powered by Sonoco at:

Woman grabbing peanuts out of a paper can.

Does recycling paper cans really matter?

Yes! Recycling any able product is important, as landfills are one of the top 3 sources of methane in the U.S., but research has shown significant benefits to recycling paper cans. For instance, global warming potential is decreased by 23%-26% when recyclable items are recycled versus ending in a landfill. Studies also show a million recycled paper cans has the same environmental effect as driving 31,000 fewer miles a year.


How do I recycle paper cans?

recycling paper cans correctly
When you’re done with the product, place the entire empty can in the recycling bin.

First, check your city’s recycling guidelines to see if paper cans or other variations of the packaging are accepted. If you are able to recycle paper cans, simply empty out your paper can and put it in the recycling bin. If not, you can encourage your community to accept them as well as continuously check your guidelines as recycling centers are always adapting to accept more items.

Parts of a fully paper can.
These innovative paper cans are fully recyclable with 85-95% material recovery, contributing to a circular packaging process with less waste.


If your local recycling center does not accept steel bottom paper cans, no worries! Stay tuned for paper cans made of 90% paper, without the steel bottom, making it recyclable in some communities in the paper stream and can be made from 100% recycled paperboard. These all-paper cans are rolling out throughout the U.S. as we speak, so lookout for your favorite brands making the swap.