Can You Recycle Dog/Cat Food Cans & Bags?

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Jean Richardson

Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

Consumers are becoming more eco-friendly all the time, looking for sustainable products and companies dedicated to producing said products. Additionally, many of those consumers are also pet owners. 

Therefore, as an eco-friendly pet owner, you may be curious whether or not you can recycle your pet food cans and bags. Well, continue reading for the answer and more!

Can You Recycle Dog/Cat Food Cans & Bags?

Most pet food cans and bags can be recycled. However, whether or not pet food packaging can be recycled depends entirely on the material they are made of. Although, if your used pet food packaging can not be recycled, there are a variety of ways to avoid disposal.

Knowing what to do with your pet food packaging can be confusing, especially if you live in a rural area without a recycling center. Continue reading to learn how to differentiate between recyclable packaging and non, and discover ways to reuse your materials!

Ensure Your Pet Food Container Can Be Recycled

No matter what you are recycling, you first need to determine what material or materials your item is made of. 

This is because materials like foam and bubble wrap are not recyclable, while materials like paper, glass, and various textiles and fibers are. 

Therefore, before taking your used pet food packaging to the recycling center, determine whether its materials are recyclable or not.

Pet food packaging comes in a variety of materials, depending on its form, to ensure product freshness. 

So bags can be made from several different materials, but most commonly are made of: 

  • Paper
  • Plastic
  • Polyester

However, it is common for a pet food bag to be layered so many come with both a paper and a plastic lining, and the linings may be tethered.

Therefore, if your pet food bag is lined in any way, dispose of it, or find a way to reuse it.

If it’s possible to separate layers, discard what can not be recycled and recycle what can be.

Moreover, follow this general rule: if it can be ripped, it can be recycled. 

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However, if your pet food comes in cans, you will need to follow different guidelines, as the materials are different. 

Although, cans are typically made of steel, which can be recycled. 

Be mindful, too, of the seals on your packaging, as they may have to be removed before recycling. 

Steel lids on cans can be recycled along with the can, but certain plastic seals may not be. 

Furthermore, once you have determined the make of your used pet food packaging, you can take eligible materials to your local recycling center. 

How To Recycle Pet Food Containers

It is important to know how to properly recycle pet food packaging so you do not contaminate the other recyclable materials. 

Therefore, when in doubt, contact your local center for all regulations and potential guidelines your center might follow. 

For example, they may want you to:

  • Removal of labels
  • Sort between different materials

Furthermore, some centers require the removal of labels from cans since they are made from a different material, while others will simply burn the label off. 

However, no matter what practice your center employs, it is important to meet their expectations. 

Also, sorting your recyclables can be very helpful to your center, even if they do not ask. 

So separate papers, metals, and plastics, and make sure everything is safe to pick up. 

Therefore, do not include scrap with a jagged edge that could harm someone. 

This means you have to sort your metals thoroughly, and you can do so by using a magnet as steel is magnetic, while aluminum is not.

No matter what specificities your local center requires, always be sure to rinse your recyclables, ensuring no waste is left behind. 

Additionally, pet food, liquids, and anything else of unlike material can contaminate the batch of recycling. 

Therefore, it is important to rinse all remnants of pet food, wet or dry, out of the recyclable container.

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Recycling Pet Food Containers At Home

Recycling Pet Food Containers At Home

Most metropolitan areas have an easy-to-use recycling system in place, but, unfortunately, many rural areas do not. 

So, if you do not have a local recycling center, fear not, you can still recycle your pet food packages. 

Furthermore, these might be good options:

  • Stores with recycling bins
  • Nearby centers
  • Mail-in recycling

Your city might not have a recycling center, but a store nearby might. 

Therefore, ask your local pet food retailer if they have recycling bins they allow community members to utilize. 

Also, see if a nearby town has a recycling center you can use, especially if its population is larger than your town’s. 

Additionally, research mail-in options. Select businesses accept mail-in pet food packaging recyclables, and this may be a great option for you. 

Furthermore, if you choose this route, be very cognizant of their guidelines, as well as your mail delivery service’s guidelines, don’t include unmailable or non-recyclable items in your parcels. 

Are Pet Food Cans And Bags Biodegradable?

Recyclable materials are eco-friendly, but eco-friendlier materials are also biodegradable, meaning they can be decomposed. 

However, non-biodegradable materials used in pet food packaging include:

  • Polyester
  • Plastic

Be aware, too, that some materials may technically be biodegradable, but recycling may still be a better option. 

For example, steel, which is used to make many pet food cans, is biodegradable, but the biodegradation process is lengthy.

Furthermore, it is also important to note that some packaging might be labeled as compostable rather than biodegradable. 

This may seem like an eco-friendlier package, but it could actually be more harmful to the earth. 

Additionally, for a material to compost, it must be in the right environment. 

However, for the materials most often used in pet food packaging, most of these composting environments are man-made, and very few exist. 

Therefore, your purchase may seem eco-friendly, but in reality,  it might be worse for the environment than an alternative so make sure to do your research before hand.

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How To Reuse And Upcycle Pet Food Packaging

Recycling, biodegrading, and composting are all great ways to help care for the earth, but a kinder practice is to reuse your pet food packaging materials, which involves upcycling them. 

This is an especially great practice if you live far from a recycling center. 

However, if the most difficult part of reusing materials is brainstorming an idea for their new purpose, do not worry. 

A simple web search can give you hundreds of unique ways to repurpose your used materials. 

Furthermore, to reuse your wet pet food cans, try turning them into:

  • Tins for storage
  • Plant containers
  • Decoration

Pet food bags are traditionally more difficult to recycle than pet food cans, however, bags are easier to upcycle, which turns your used material into something of value. 

Furthermore, you can easily find tutorials on turning your bags into aprons, tablecloths, or cushions. 

If you are not into crafting, try reusing them as bags. 

Also, instead of just throwing them out try using them as trash bags and save a garbage liner.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on whether you can recycle acrylic plastic, whether you can recycle laminated paper, and whether you can recycle textbooks.


Nearly all pet food packaging is recyclable. However, when in doubt, research your selected brand and find out whether their packaging is recyclable, biodegradable, or compostable. Check if they are committed to using sustainable packaging, as many manufacturers today are. 

Being an eco-friendly pet owner requires some effort, but it’s highly achievable. Integrating simple practices, like using designated bins or scheduling trips to your recycling center, makes recycling manageable and sustainable, while also reducing the amount of waste produced.


  • Jean Richardson

    Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

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