There’s free money just lying around outside, waiting for you to pick it up. It’s not a joke – we’re talking about aluminum cans!
Turns out, you can make some decent scratch just by collecting aluminum cans and turning them into the right recycling plant at the end of every week. This is a tried-and-true method for scraping together enough cash to buy a new game console, make a car payment, or have a little extra spending money next weekend.
However, it’s also easy to get ripped off when you try to make money recycling aluminum cans. Let’s take a look at the best practices to ensure you get paid the best price for any scavenged aluminum cans.
What’s the Average Rate for Recycled Aluminum Cans?
Well, that’s a tricky question with a complex answer: it depends! Basically, different states have different return rates for recycling aluminum cans, and your overall profit can also be impacted by where you turn the cans in at the end of the day.
For instance, Michigan has a general return rate for carbonated beverage containers at about $.10 per deposit. However, turning in your aluminum cans at recycling centers or scrap yards in Ohio could net you $.33 per pound if you collect at least 50 pounds of aluminum cans.
iScrapp, an app specifically devoted to recycling various scrap metals, indicates that the national average across the US for aluminum recycling is $.25 per pound. This is a good rule of thumb when calculating your potential profits for devoting multiple hours to scrounging up cans from your community, but it’s not the full story.
For instance, you can usually go to a recycling plant and try to haggle with the overseers there. They may give you a few cents higher per pound than their listed rates. This is partially because aluminum prices change daily – after all, it’s a precious metal! So recycling centers will also update their prices from time to time.
Regardless of where you go to recycle your aluminum, be sure to get your price in writing so that you can hold the other party to the deal you agree to when you return with tons of aluminum cans!
Bottle Bills – What You Need to Know
Some states have enacted so-called “bottle bills”. In a nutshell, these are state laws that mandate minimum payouts for recycled bottles and, luckily for you, aluminum cans. At the time of this writing, 10 US states have active bottle bills. These require recycling centers to pay a minimum of between $.05 and $.10 per recycled can.
That’s huge! It means you can potentially earn a much higher income for recycling aluminum compared to states where these bottle bills aren’t in effect. Compare this to the aforementioned national average for recycled aluminum ($.25 per pound of cans) and you can see the difference.
Basically, states with bottle bills will let you earn between 5 and 10 times the amount per can than you would if you lived in the state without a bottle bill. What states have bottle bills?
- New York
If you happen to live in one of these bottle bill states, you’re in luck! Start collecting by following the tips below and could make quite a tidy profit in no time at all.
How and Where to Collect Aluminum Cans
Of course, the price for aluminum cans doesn’t really matter if you don’t have cans to turn in. Fortunately, there are multiple places where you can scrounge for aluminum cans.
Check Where You Work
That’s right; your place of employment might be able to get you money in more ways than one. You can probably gather more aluminum cans than you might anticipate just by checking the break room or the trash cans near soda machines wherever you happen to work.
We don’t necessarily mean you should dumpster dive at your workplace. Instead, it may be more beneficial to contact the janitors at your workplace and make an agreement where they allow you to take any aluminum cans collected. You’ll also want to make sure that you have garbage bags handy so you don’t try to stuff them in a backpack for the rest of the day.
Ask Friends and Family
If you happen to live close to your friends and family, you can always let them in on the scheme and ask them to collect any aluminum cans they use throughout the week. Then, on a predetermined day, all of you can get together and gather your aluminum spoils to take to the local recycling center or plant.
This is one of the best ways to get tons of aluminum cans for huge profits, especially if you all drive together. The fact is that families usually go through more soda and other aluminum can beverages together than even the most prolific drinker.
When it comes to your neighbors, we’d advise caution. You don’t want to get caught by your neighbors as you rifle through their trash, especially if you don’t have any permission. In fact, doing so may violate one or more state laws.
Alternatively, talk to your neighbors about collecting their cans once per week or having them throw their cans in a separate bin outside that you can collect at your convenience. Bottom line: just be sure you get permission before trying to take the cans of your neighbors.
Local Businesses Might Help
Tons of local businesses, even if you don’t work directly for them, might be willing to help you out, especially since they usually have recycling initiatives in place. Contact local businesses and see if they will set up an aluminum can bin in their break rooms or throughout their premises.
Then you can collect the aluminum cans once per week or reach an arrangement where you all go down to the recycling plant together to pool your profits. Many local businesses will be happy to help you out, especially since lots of people are rightfully worried about the environment
Check Out Events/Festivals/Concerts
These places are excellent spots to look for aluminum cans. People drink tons of beer and soda when they are partying, and if you show up before the cleaning crews take care of everything you might be able to scrounge a huge bounty of aluminum cans for your collection. Many of these will be on the ground or in trash cans, though, so be sure to wear gloves and other protective equipment!
When you’re scrounging for aluminum cans to make some cash, you may occasionally find them old cans that hold additional value. For example, various antique beer cans are collectibles and could be worth anywhere from $50-$1000 depending on who’s looking for the cans and their rarity.
This is by no means a common occurrence, but it’s something to keep in mind if you spot a peculiarly-colored can or one with a unique design that you haven’t seen before. Odds are it’s worth something to someone, so put it in a separate bag and don’t turn it in with the common cans you’ve collected so far.
Once You Have the Cans, Where Do You Go?
Recyclingcenters.org is, by far, the best place to find a great recycling center near your home. This has a listing of all the recycling centers in your state, so you can easily determine which is closest to your workplace or most consistently reachable with your transportation options.
Keep in mind, of course, that different recycling centers will pay different prices for aluminum cans, even in bottle bill states (the minimum price will just be higher). It pays, literally, to do your research and determine the most profitable recycling center to visit before every trip.
If the website is ever down, be sure to check your local Yellow Pages and similar resources for listings of recycling centers and aluminum plants that may take your cans.
All in all, you can and should make money recycling your aluminum cans or those of your community. While it’s not a way to achieve full-on financial independence (at least, not for most folks), it can be a great way to net yourself a little extra cash if you happen to be low on change this month or if you want to buy something pricey and don’t quite have the budget to make the cut. It’s also a great way to help the environment.
Let us know if you have any other tips for collecting and making money when recycling aluminum cans!