Fortunately, my husband has a much more straightforward approach to problems than I do: he just took the can apart. With a few minutes and a pair of channel lock pliers, he converted a non-recyclable aerosol can (shown on the left) to an innocuous empty steel canister (shown on the right), which can go right in our mixed recycling bin. Well, gee, why didn't I think of that?
For anyone who would like to try this at home, it just takes a few simple steps:
1. Grab the little plastic nozzle with the channel locks, yank it off, and throw it away. (It can't go in recycling because it doesn't have a number code on it, but it's small enough not to worry about.)
2. Grab the edge of the metal ring underneath with the channel locks and pry it up. Work your way around the ring, gradually prying it loose, until the whole thing can be removed. There will be some additional plastic parts underneath (a sort of valve with a couple of little washers), which can also be tossed. This is the only part of the process that's at all tricky, but it only takes a minute or two.
4. Just to make sure the empty can is no longer identifiable as a whipped cream canister, peel off and discard the plastic label, and then crush the steel can underfoot with a nice satisfying stomp.
And voilà—your can is now recyclable.
With this one simple discovery, we've eliminated what I imagine to be a fairly significant percentage, at least by weight, of all the trash we throw away. Now, instead of having to toss a whole big hunk of steel into the trash every month, all we need to throw out is a handful of little plastic bits. That's an amount of waste I'm willing to live with—especially for the sake of not letting any actual cream go to waste.