Aluminum Can Recycling: Make Some Money & Reduce Your Carbon Footprint!

On an individual level, recycling your containers and used products reduces waste and the global carbon footprint. In the case of aluminum cans and products, you can even use recycling to make some extra cash – it's a win-win! 

In a world of expanding waste and growing carbon footprints, recycling is more crucial than ever. 

Aluminum cans are one of the easiest and cheapest things to recycle, and unlike some other recycled products, their content can create new aluminum products again and again. 

Better yet, you can make some money off of recycling your aluminum at the scrap yard or in bottle bill states, where you can make a pretty penny from each can you return. 

Learn more below about why we choose to use aluminum packaging whenever we can and how you can maximize your can recycling profits!

Why Choose to Use Aluminum?

We love aluminum cans for their convenience but, more importantly, for their sustainability!

  • Aluminum makes the most sustainable recycling package and tends to have a better recycling rate and content than other types of containers. 
  • Aluminum cans are also lightweight and crushable, making them much easier to store and transport while using fewer materials and non-renewable resources.
  • Aluminum is less expensive to recycle, which helps to keep recycling programs running – saving money recycling aluminum frees a plant's financial resources that allow them to recycle more costly materials, too. 

Closed-Loop vs. Open-Loop Recycling

You may hear these terms thrown around regarding recycling, and they tell us a lot about the renewability of certain items. 

  • A closed-loop recycling process means that an item's elements can be fully used again, without the need for adding any new resources.
  • On the other hand, open-loop means that though some parts of an item are recycled, new virgin materials are required. The same materials often have to be "downcycled" into other products, which eventually leads to a product that we can recycle no further. 
  • Closed-loop products are by far the superior packaging option, as you can virtually reuse the same items over and over again, without the need for mining, gathering, and processing new materials each time.
  • Glass and plastic, for example, are usually downcycled into fiber or landfill liner. 

We love recycling and purchasing aluminum products because it follows a closed-loop cycle and isfar less wasteful. 

How to Recycle Aluminum Cans

First of all, we thank you for looking into finding ways to renew and reuse your waste!

You have a few different options, and for us, priority #1 is keeping the cans out of the landfill – despite our best efforts, 40 million cans end up in landfills each year. 

From there, you can recycle your cans three ways:

  1. Put your cans at the curb for weekly pickup.
  2. Transport your cans to a recycling center nearby. 
  3. Donate your cans to collections for charitable causes. 

Cleaning Out Your Beverage Containers

There are some misconceptions out there that you can simply toss your used items into the recycling bin. 

But first, it's essential to clean out each aluminum can and other recyclables to ensure they get accepted, as some plants will reject dirty items – and honestly, we don't blame them!

Consider what shape you'd like to be dealing with on your recyclables– everyone would choose a relatively clean container over one with mold and rotting food scraps. 

Be careful while you clean, as opened cans can be quite sharp around the edges!

Finding a Recycling Center

Aluminum provides one of the most basic and cheapest materials to recycle.

Luckily, this means that unlike other more complex and heavily-processed recyclables, almost every single recycling center provides aluminum can recycling services. 

While it won't be hard to find a center that will accept aluminum, keep in mind that the payouts will vary. Finding a center with the highest price of aluminum cans will pay off huge for you over time, especially if you recycle aluminum in larger volumes. 

Crushing Your Beverage Cans

While cans no longer require crushing before you recycle, a can crusher, like this one, is still a useful tool, especially if you plan to recycle cans in bulk quantities. 

Cans pile up pretty quickly, so unless you have a 6-car garage and a large truck for transport, crushing is the way to go. 

What Types of Aluminum Can Be Recycled?

For the most part, a curbside pickup or recycling center accepts almost all aluminum products, including the aluminum can, foil, baking trays, and pie trays. 

Businesses recycle industrially-used aluminum with the help of in-house programs.

Many companies choose to join a network composed of similar businesses to suit their own needs and maximize recycling power. 

Aluminum Can Deposits and Aluminum's Value

Many American states have a bottle bill, including Connecticut, California, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Michigan, New York, and Oregon. 

In these bottle bill states, you pay a small deposit when you purchase a product – most times, manufacturers add 5-10 cents to their product's price, which stores remit to their state.

When you finish with the product, you can return your cans to receive a refund of the same amount. 

In states without bottle bills, you can sell your aluminum beverage cans to a scrap yard to make a little cash. You can expect to make anywhere in the range of $2 - $4 per pound of cans you sell in bottle bill states, while you'll yield $0.40 to $0.50 per pound from a scrapyard.

How many aluminum cans make a pound?

This largely depends on the cans' age. As production technology improves, manufacturers find ways to produce thinner and thinner cans, which is excellent – the thinner the can, the fewer resources used. 

A thin can doesn't bode well for making money, and you'll have to collect more cans to make up the weight difference. 

In 1972, it took 22 cans to make a pound, but today that number sits closer to 30 per pound.

How many cans will it take to make $100?

Let's go with a lower number and assume you make $1 per pound of cans, which is likely less than you'd make in bottle bill states, but more than you'd make from a scrapyard. 

100 lb x $1 = $100 

Then, 100 lb x 22 cans/lb = 2200 cans. 

If you make $1 per lb, you need 2200 cans to make $100. From a scrapyard, you likely need double that, with 4400 cans. And if you make $2 per lb in a bottle bill state, you'll only need half, which is still 1100 cans. 

No matter the rate, if you want to see a significant return, it's time to start building your stockpile!

Finding Extra Cans: How Many Cans Can You Find?

One pound of cans is worth at most a few dollars, so you'll need to collect as many as you can to watch the value climb!

  • Collecting as many aluminum beverage cans at home to recycle will only do so much.
  • You'll also want to head out to free outdoor concerts to find some extra cans.
  • Scour the parking lot after indoor shows - the venue likely won't be upset that you're helping clean up.
  • If you live somewhere with an event venue close by that holds festivals each year, their attendance may get up into the hundreds of thousands – all of those thirsty people create a significant opportunity to make some cash off the recycled aluminum.
  • You can also ask your friends and family for donations – offer to donate the proceeds to charity, or give them a portion of your earnings from selling the recycled material. 

Final Note: Extra Aluminum Can Recycling Tips

If you're building an aluminum can collection with pieces from all over, be sure to:

  • Wear gloves to protect your hands while collecting, and beware of sharp edges.
  • Wash and clean your cans well before you return them.
  • Keep them separate from other recyclables for simple returns.

If you follow the tips above, you'll have the best odds of getting your cans accepted and making some big bucks off of your aluminum!