1. How much can I earn?
Cans are made of aluminum, which is a natural resource that trades daily on exchanges. Aluminum trades in price per pound, so the "going rate" for aluminum cans varies from day to day. There are two basic ways you may earn cash for cans.
- Fixed "Bottle Bill" redemption rate: Some states have fixed redemption rates—these states require a "deposit" of $0.10 per can, so that’s what you can get back. If your state has a bottle bill, you’ll likely get between $0.05 and $0.10 per can (or bottle) when you return it to the same store where you bought it.
- Example: $0.10 x 34 cans = $3.40/pound of cans
- Variable redemption rate: States that haven’t passed a bottle bill will pay a variable rate per pound of cans turned in (which works out to around 34 cans). The national average tends to hover around $0.50/pound of cans.
The Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA) has developed a neat app to help you calculate earnings per pound. The app is called "Aluminate" and is available for iOS. The app not only allows you to change the price per pound to calculate the going rate for a pound of cans, but you can also form can collecting teams and track your progress, track the number of cans you’ve collected, and even find the closest local recycling centers.
- Get “Aluminate” for iTunes (free)
2. How do I start?
The best way to start is to just start—all you need is a bag or box and an empty can! But long-term, you’ll want to set up some kind of recycling area or station at home (and/or at work) to help you stay mindful as you use cans. Here’s what you may need:
- Dedicated space: You’ll need a bit of free space to store your cans until you take them to the redemption center. Ideally, you may want to look for space in your garage or somewhere away from areas of high traffic in the house.
- Recycling bin(s): These should be provided free by your state recycling association, but you may want to get extra bins or bags for overflow.
- Crusher: You can use your foot, of course, but having something to crush cans with can make the task of storing and transporting all those cans much easier.
3. Where do I go to turn in my cans?
If you’re in a bottle-bill state, you can simply return the cans to the same store where you purchased them to redeem your cash. If you’re in a variable-rate state, you can search for a local recycling redemption center using the Aluminate app or by using these links.
- ALCOA recycling center search tool: http://www.alcoa.com/recycling/en/recycling.asp
- Internet search: Do a search on "can recycling redemption center + your state"
4. Earn cash for good with a community project
You can also create a community fundraising project based around recycling aluminum cans for cash using these neat programs.
- Great American Can Roundup: http://www.cancentral.com/recycling-sustainability/programs-initiatives/great-american-can-roundup
- Curbside Value Partnership: http://www.recyclecurbside.org/content/u/general_start_a_program
- Cans Get You Cooking: https://www.facebook.com/CansGetYouCooking
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