What’s the Eco-Hippy Word on Aluminum Foil?

It took me years–and the savage death of like 25 non-stick cookie sheets–to discover the merits of aluminum foil. But now that I live in one of those West Coast “zero waste” cities–where the only things you really can’t recycle are styrofoam and heavily soiled unclassified plastic packaging–I just don’t know how to pitch my used Reynolds Wrap.

I hear they make recycled aluminum foil, or something like that, but that’s not my question. What do I do, once I’ve lined my awesome little Chicago Metallic baking pan with foil, broiled two nice pieces of fish under a 550º gas flame for 8 minutes, then removed the fish from the foil? If you say “Scrub it down, fold it neatly, stick it in a drawer and use it next time,” I seriously will have to hate you. I can’t help it. The whole point of the foil is that it comes off quickly, slides happily into the trash can, and leaves me with a totally clean Chicago Metallic pan that I just stick back in the cupboard. I will groove to a great deal of the 3R vibe, but I’m not reusing gift wrap, and I’m not reusing foil.

I would go so far as rinsing and recycling it. In fact, I pledge to try. (Would be nicer if I could dump it, food bits and all, into the increasingly misnamed “yard waste” bin, but I know metals don’t go in there.) Still, the city policy ambiguously covers “aluminum foil pie pans”–well, let me show you:

As you can see, not only is it unclear if aluminum foil is even covered, but they say yes then give two caveats that not only contradict each other, but the original “yes” as well. Thank you very f’ing much. That helped me not at all. So, screw the city code, what do you do?


4 responses to “What’s the Eco-Hippy Word on Aluminum Foil?

  1. Throw the foil wad into the recycling bin! I think that if you give the foil a rinse and then roll it into a ball, there’s no way they can really know how clean it is or not.

    Does the city hire a person to check the cleanliness of the foil in the recycling bins?

    Also… I like how, under the alternatives section, they remind you that you can reuse clean foil.

  2. I think cleaning aluminum foil is bunk. Just roll it up and pitch it in the recycling bin like Liz says. All that aluminum goes into giant arc furnaces at a few thousand degrees anyway. You think a little red snapper schmutz is really going to stop that freight train? Man up and recycle it dirty. Hey, I think that may be my new slogan for the year! BTW- would love to see how you’d make a quality (read: light, flat and airy) naan to go with my Indian dishes.

    • “Man Up and Recycle It Dirty,”–that’s definitely bumper sticker material.

      As for naan, that is one of my most favorite breads, but one of my most consistent failures. I never got it right, and gave up, switching to pre-baked frozen loaves. But I am not afraid of failure–even chronic failure: I accept the challenge, and will add naan to my to-do list.

  3. There’s a good chance your aluminum foil is already at least partially recycled. “Recycling scrap aluminum requires only 5% of the energy used to make new aluminium. For this reason, approximately 31% of all aluminium produced in the United States comes from recycled scrap.”


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