Top Five Reasons Canned Foods Are A Sustainable Choice

Jim Woods

  By Jim Woods, Senior Director   
  Sustainability Communications
  American Iron and Steel Institute



With Earth Day fast approaching, we are all reminded that everything we consume produces waste. From food waste to packaging, waste is an unfortunate byproduct of the meals we create. Luckily for everyone there’s a solution that could be right in your pantry.

From canned, to fresh, to frozen, we are faced with bountiful choices on ways to bring nutritious ingredients to the meals we prepare. Whether it’s selecting a meal ready to eat or the ingredients for your favorite recipe, the decisions you make have impacts beyond the meal itself.

So, in the spirit of Earth Day, we’re left to ask, is there a way for us to maximize flavor and nutrition while minimizing our environmental footprint? In the case of foods packaged in steel cans such as fruits, vegetables, beans, lean meats and seafood, we are fortunate to have nutritious mealtime solutions that can minimize our impact on the environment.

Let’s look at five reasons foods packaged in steel can bring sustainability to your next meal:

recycling cans


#1 - Food Waste Is A Huge Issue

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, up to 40 percent of the food in the U.S. is wasted. Food loss and spoilage is prevalent throughout the supply chain. Choosing foods packaged in steel cans minimizes these losses. Steel cans are shelf stable and provide safety from common damage at retail, minimizing loss during transport and retail storage. Foods packaged in steel cans are portion-sized – meaning we can buy according to our needs. All of this leads up to less food spoilage and waste.

#2 - Some Food Packaging Is Recycled More Than Others

Steel cans are the most recycled food and beverage package [Recycling Rate in 2014 was 71%]. Each year, more steel is recycled than paper, plastic, aluminum and glass – combined. Steel packaging is magnetically attractive, making it easy to separate from other recyclables and waste. And, steel is continuously recyclable without loss of quality. This means the can you recycled from today’s dinner could be a part of your new refrigerator in the future.

#3 - You Can Buy Quality And Buy Recycled

Buying recycled, or embracing more environmentally friendly behavior doesn’t always mean a change in behavior. For the same reasons above that steel is the most recycled food package, you can also be sure that you’re buying recycled as steel in North America is made with an average minimum of 25 percent recycled steel scrap. This ensures the products you recycle today have an end market and that you are doing your part to minimize packaging waste.

#4 - Meal Preparation Can Be Energy Intensive

Picking, packing, transporting and storing foods all consume energy. Foods packaged in steel require no refrigeration during transport or storage. This provides a significant energy savings verses other forms of food delivery. In addition, when recycled, steel food cans offset energy that would otherwise be needed to produce steel from virgin materials.

#5 - Material Efficiency Should Be A Part Of The Meal Plan

Steel packaging is easy to stack, store, ship and use. This minimizes waste throughout the supply chain of bringing nutrition to your table. And, in fact, steel cans themselves have continued to make environmental strides through lightweighting to bring additional efficiencies to the food supply chain.

So, as Earth Day rolls around this April 22nd and you’re looking to step up your environmental game around the kitchen, your nutritious, sustainable solution could be right in your pantry. Canned foods give us access to our favorite, nutritious ingredients year-round. So as an added benefit, in addition to feeling good about the meal you’ve prepared, you can also feel good knowing that you’re embracing sustainable behavior – not just on Earth Day, but every day.


For more from Jim Woods and the American Iron and Steel Institute on recycling, visit the website