Environmentally Friendly

Cans are environmentally-friendly, and canned food curbs food waste.

For an overview, check out this infographic: Steel Food Can Facts

The metal can…

Represents an Endlessly Recyclable, Eco-friendly Packaging Choice

  • The American Iron & Steel estimated the recycling rate for steel cans to be 58%.  
  • Metal food cans are 100% recyclable.
  • Nearly 30,000 steel cans are recycled every minute in the United States.
  • Cans can be recycled again and again, forever, without loss of strength or quality.
  • The steel in food cans recycles forever. In contrast, other food containers can be made up of multiple materials or not accepted at curbside recycling, making them hard to recycle and/or have significantly lower recycling rates.
  • Every ton of recycled steel saves 2,500 pounds of iron ore, 1,000 pounds of coal and 40 pounds of limestone.


Uses Less Energy from Farm to Fork Compared to Fresh or Frozen Foods

  • Fruit and vegetables are harvested and canned within hours, which minimizes the impact on the environment.23   
  • Canned produce goes from field to package within 4 ½ hours, whereas fresh produce takes 24 days from field to store.23
  • Shipping and storing canned fruits and vegetables, requires a less energy-intensive cold chain distribution system than fresh and frozen.23
  • If the entire U.S. fruit and vegetable supply were canned, rather than packed for refrigeration or freezing, the estimated savings would be~22 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2). To put this into perspective, a typical car produces approximately 4.6 metric tons of CO2 per year, so it would be similar to removing over 4.7 million cars from the roads.
  • The process of cleaning, packaging, and sanitizing the produce uses low amounts of energy and water.23
  • The overall canning process saves energy, reduces food waste and helps seal in nutrients.


To learn more, check out this infographic: The True Cost of Food

Canned food…

Reduces Food Waste in the Field, Cannery, and Grocery Stores:

  • Canned food reduces culling loss, doesn’t spoil, is easily stored and is typically used in full once opened.
  • Culling eliminates produce for processing based on quality and looks. Canning cuts down on culling loss because flawed produce gets blanched or chopped, rather than tossed and added to the landfill heap – where food waste accounts for 21% of total waste after recycling.24
  • Farmers coordinate harvest time with processors to optimize resource efficiencies and curb waste.
  • Waste, such as peels, cores and inedible plant matter, is removed during the canning process and reused as agricultural feed or compost.
  • Fresh tomatoes and spinach are wasted more at the retail level than their canned counterparts (6% versus 10%).28


For more harvesting and canning facts, explore this infographic: Lifecycle of a Pea (and other canned foods)

Reduces Food Waste in the Home:

  • Canned food retains quality and taste for more than two years, eliminating confusion and waste associated with “best by” or “use by” dates.
  • The long shelf-life of canned foods helps Americans reduce the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables they purchase and then throw away each week.  
  • Nearly all registered dietitians agree that canned produce can be a better value than fresh because it doesn’t spoil and is easy to store, which is important since Americans waste approximately 25% of fresh fruits and vegetables every year. 2, 25
  • Fresh fruit and vegetable waste amounts to $26.6 billion lost by American consumers and another $11.1 billion lost by retailers.25
  • Food saved by reducing losses by just 15% could feed more than 25 million Americans every year.25
  • Recipes typically optimize use of a full can, thus cutting down food waste in the kitchen.
  • Only around 16% of tomatoes and spinach are lost at the consumer level with canned versions, while 30-40% is lost with fresh.28
  • In an effort to reduce food waste, food cans alone save in excess of 1 billion liters of food every year, when compared to food packaged for refrigeration or freezing, according to University of Delaware research on the effects of metal packaging on food waste.

To learn more, Listen to our podcast about how cans minimize food waste on GreenerPackage.com

For more on food waste, check out this infographic: Let’s Talk Trash (USDA Infographic)