Recycling aluminum cans, just like recycling plastic bottles, is a great way to make some money and go green!
If you’re looking for a really easy way to make extra money without investment or experience, you could be just a few inexpensive recycling bins, some trash bags, and part of your free time away from a good option.
Recycling is a huge industry. According to the Recycling Economic Information (REI) Report by the EPA, recycling and reuse activities in the United States accounted for more than $37 billion in wages and over $5 billion in tax revenues.
But you don’t have to have a recycling center to make some extra cash. In this post, I’ll show you a simple way to start a can recycling side hustle, cover how much money you can make, how it works, and places that’ll pay you for your unwanted cans.
Can you make money selling aluminum cans?
Short answer: Yes, places like recycling centers and scrap yards pay you for your aluminum cans, usually per pound. Generally, they pay around half the market price for aluminum.
If you happen to live in a state with bottle deposit laws, you get paid per can. This can significantly increase the amount of money you’ll earn for recycling aluminum cans.
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Recycling Aluminum Cans for Money
Below, you’ll find a step-by-step guide on selling aluminum cans.
Step One: Collect Aluminum Cans
You can recycle the cans your household uses, such as soda and beer cans. If you are looking to increase your income though, you will want to source cans from multiple places.
If you are interested in collecting extra cans from places outside of your home, then make sure you always carry a garbage bag with you because you never know when you’ll come across litter that you can make money from.
Where to find aluminum cans to recycle
If you’re wondering “Where can I find aluminum cans to recycle?, then try these places:
You don’t even have to step outside your front door to start collecting cans. You can do it in your own home!
Families go through a lot of soft drinks and beer, so you can easily get cans.
If you aren’t collecting your cans already, make sure you start now! Set aside a trash can to hold all your empty cans and let the rest of your household know about your new can collection project. If you live in a state with a bottle bill, this is so important. Otherwise, you’re throwing away money!
Friends and family
One of the easiest ways to get some extra cans is to ask your friends and neighbors.
Most people aren’t bothered about what happens to their recyclables, so they’d be willing to hand them over to you. Many people are happy to have someone else handle their unwanted cans for them.
Many people aren’t bothered about you taking their aluminum cans, so ask your neighbors! Chances are that you have neighbors who don’t recycle their cans and would be happy to give these unwanted cans to you.
Don’t search through your neighbor’s trash without their permission though. Doing so is illegal in many states, and it’s just not good etiquette either.
Make sure you always get permission from your neighbors before you collect their cans.
Bars and restaurants
If you are looking to get aluminum cans in bulk, then it’s a good idea to offer to pick up empties from bars and restaurants. These places have a lot of cans, and other recyclables, like bottles, that you can cash in.
Just contact local restaurants and bars and ask if you can collect the empties to recycle them. Some places may be willing to partner with you. Offer the owner convenient times for pickup.
You could also consider putting a post on Craigslist as well asking if any local bars or restaurants need someone to collect empties.
The bar or restaurant gets rid of their unwanted containers, and you make money, so it’s a win-win.
Another place you may be able to find aluminum cans to recycle is at outdoor concerts and festivals. Sometimes, concertgoers leave cans on the floor or tables. So, you could collect these cans and turn them in for cash.
If you are attending an event, then look out for cans. Or, look out for events/concerts/festivals near you, and get in touch to ask if you could collect the cans after.
Many workplaces have a soft drink vending machine. If your workplace does, ask your company’s management if you can collect the discarded cans.
Most places will be happy to agree since you’re helping them to recycle. Once you have permission to collect the cans, you could set up a separate bin with a note that says, “aluminum cans only.” Check the bin daily, either during lunch or after work each day.
Also, it’s important to let the cleaning staff know that you’re collecting the cans, so they don’t accidentally throw the cans away.
Be sure to stay on top of your can collection. Don’t let the cans pile up and keep the area clean. That’s why it’s important to set a daily collection time. This way, you keep your workplace neat, and management happy, and you get to continue to collect extra cans.
Sadly, many people litter. This means that you’ll often find cans just scattered in outdoor areas. So, if you’re looking for extra cans, look out for litter in outdoor areas.
You can often find cans in the following areas:
- Parking lot
- Under bushes
- The beach
After events like a street fair or marathon and other sports events, there’s usually even more litter.
By picking up litter, you’re not only putting more money in your pocket, but you also improve the appearance of your neighborhood and town. Plus, you’re helping the environment too.
A note on collecting litter safely
Collecting cans from your own home or family members is pretty easy. You can just bag them up and take them to the store or center to recycle them for cash.
If you are collecting extra bottles from places like events or outdoor spaces, you will need to take some safety precautions.
Sadly, things like syringes and other hazardous materials are also tossed on the floor, so you never know what you’re going to come across when looking through litter.
That’s why you should always wear gloves. These will keep your hands protected. You should always wear long-sleeved clothing as well, and suitable footwear like boots. Avoid sandals or anything open-toed. You want to be safe when picking up cans.
Also, be careful in places like parking lots. Always be aware of traffic and never collect litter in the dark. So, avoid searching for cans at nighttime and instead look in the daytime when it’s light out.
Step Two: Check if Your State Has a Bottle Deposit Law
Before you take your cans to recycle them for cash, you should definitely check to see if your state has a bottle bill. Many do, and if you are lucky enough to live in one of these states, you can increase the amount of money you earn from recycling your cans by quite a lot!
Not all states have a bottle bill. Currently, there are ten states that do. I have listed these states below, along with which beverages and containers are covered.
If you live in one of these states, you can get paid not only for aluminum cans but also for other containers like glass bottles and plastic bottles. So, if your family consumes a lot of wine and water, and you have bottles from those, then take them with you along with the aluminum cans to earn even more!
Currently, there are ten states that have bottle redemption laws:
- California: Earn money not only for aluminum cans, but also for any container that’s made of glass, plastic, or bi-metal. Exempts refillables. Californians can earn money from beverages including beer, malt, wine, and distilled spirit coolers.
- Connecticut: In Connecticut, any can, bottle, jar, or carton that’s made from glass, metal, or plastic is accepted. You can make money from beer, malt, carbonated soft drinks, and bottled water. Containers that are more than three liters containing non-carbonated beverages and HDPE containers are excluded.
- Hawaii: In Hawaii, any container up to 68 oz. that’s composed of aluminum, bi-metal, glass, or plastic is accepted. Get money back for beer, malt, mixed spirits and wine and all non-alcoholic drinks, except for dairy products.
- Iowa: If you live in Iowa, you can return any can, bottle, jar, or carton that’s made from glass, metal, or plastic. Earn money when you return beer, wine coolers, wine, liquor, carbonated soft drinks, and mineral water. Basically, you can earn for anything that’s alcoholic or carbonated, and water.
- Maine: In Maine, you can earn money for any container that’s four liters or less and made from metal, glass, or plastic. Earn for all beverages aside from dairy products and unprocessed cider.
- Massachusetts: Get paid for any can, bottle, jar, or carton composed of glass, metal, plastic, or a combination. Excludes biodegradables. Get a redemption reward for beer, malt, carbonated soft drinks, and mineral water.
- Michigan: Get a redemption reward for any container that’s less than one gallon made of metal, glass, paper, or plastic. You can get paid for beer, wine coolers, canned cocktails, soft drinks, carbonated and mineral water.
- New York: Earn money from any can, bottle, or jar that’s less than one gallon and made from glass, metal, aluminum, steel, or plastic. Get paid for beer, malt, wine products, carbonated soft drinks, soda water, and water that doesn’t contain sugar. Hard cider and wine are excluded.
- Oregon: In Oregon, any can, bottle, or jar that’s composed of glass, metal, or plastic is accepted. You can get a redemption reward for beer, malt, carbonated soft drinks, and bottled water. All beverages are covered, except for wine, distilled liquor, dairy products, milk substitutes (like plant-based milk) and infant formula.
- Vermont: In Vermont, you can get paid for any can, jar, or carton that’s made from glass, metal, paper, plastic, or a combination. You can get a redemption reward for beer, malt, mixed wine, liquor, and carbonated soft drinks.
Step Three: Recycle Your Cans for Cash
Now that you have your cans, you can recycle them for money. There are quite a lot of places that’ll pay you for them.
Where to recycle aluminum cans
If you want to know where to sell aluminum cans, try these places:
If you live in a state with a bottle bill, then your local grocery store or supermarket may have machines for aluminum cans, and other recyclables, such as plastic bottles and glass bottles.
These machines can usually be found behind the store or in the store’s parking lot.
Ask your local store whether they have a machine for recyclables. Most stores give you a slip of paper once you’ve loaded all of your recyclables into the machine, and you can redeem this with a cashier.
Gas stations and convenience stores
Another place to take your cans for cash, again, if you live in a state that has bottle deposit laws, is your local gas station/convenience store. Some gas stations and convenience stores allow you to return cans and bottles for cash. Simply ask at your nearby gas station/convenience store to see if it offers bottle redemption.
If you don’t live in a bottle bill state, you can instead take your cans to your local recycling center where you can get paid for them per pound, based on current market values.
You can find local recycling centers near you by going to Google, or whatever search engine you use, and entering the term “recycling center near me.” You’ll get a list of any nearby places, and can view details such as the address, opening hours, and phone number.
Also, you can use Earth911.com search for recycling centers near you. You can search for the type of item you want to recycle, so aluminum cans, and enter your zip code to find recycling centers near you.
Scrap metal centers
You can also take your cans to scrap metal centers. You’ll get paid per pound. You can find local scrap metal centers by going to Google, or whatever search engine it is that you use, and entering the term “scrap metal center near me.” You will get a list of any recycling centers near you.
Bottle and can redemption centers
If you live in a state with bottle deposit laws, then you can return cans, bottles, and other beverage containers for cash at redemption centers.
Simply open up Google, or whichever search engine you use, and enter the phrase, “bottle redemption center near me.” You’ll get a list of nearby centers where you can get cash for bottles, cans, and other containers.
How Much Do You Get for Recycling Aluminum Cans?
How much money you make from recycling cans will depend on a few factors, such as:
- The number of cans you have.
- The current market price for aluminum.
- Whether or not your state has bottle deposit laws.
If you live in a bottle bill state, you will typically get more cash for your cans.
The determining factor is going to be the amount you can get for each can which varies from week to week and is different for different states.
For instance, aluminum is purchased for $0.30 per pound in the state I live in (MO), but in other states (namely California and Michigan) the rate is set by legislation at $0.10 per can, making recycling in these places worth the effort.
If you’ve done the math you’ll find that in my state, cans typically go for $0.013 per can rather than $0.10 like they do in some other states. These states would increase your hourly rate from a humble $3.90 per hour to a whopping $30 per hour.
With such a drastic difference it’s not surprising that some have tried taking their cans to these more profitable states instead of staying close to home.
Let’s take a look at earning potential in a little more detail.
Prices offered at recycling centers and scrap yards
If you don’t live in a state with bottle deposit laws, you will need to take your cans to your local recycling center or scrap metal center. These places pay you per pound for your aluminum cans.
The price of aluminum is constantly changing based on market supply and demand. That’s why it’s important to check it at the time you come to cash in your cans. You can find the current price for aluminum cans and other scrap metal prices at iScrap App.
The current scrap metal price for aluminum cans is $0.64 per lb.
Knowing the current market price of aluminum cans can help you to decide whether the price you’re quoted by the recycling center or scrap metal center is fair.
Typically, recycling centers and scrap metal centers offer to pay you about half the market price for aluminum, give or take a couple of cents.
Don’t accept lowball offers. You can negotiate to try to get a few cents per pound more for the cans and boost your income. Again, that’s why knowing the market price for recycling aluminum cans is important. It can help you in your negotiations for a better price.
It’s also important to note that if you aren’t getting paid on the spot for the cans you bring to the center, you should make sure you get the price you’re offered in writing before you leave the center.
Since the price of aluminum often changes, you’ll want to get your quote in writing from the center. They sometimes don’t pay you right away, so having a written agreement can give you the peace of mind that you will get paid the price originally quoted by the center, even if you’re not paid on the spot.
How much money can I earn at scrap yards and recycling centers?
The current scrap metal price for aluminum cans is $0.64 per pound. It takes approximately 31 empty aluminum cans to equal 1 pound. One empty aluminum can weighs approximately 14.9 grams.
Basically, you need a lot of cans to make decent money here.
If you wanted to make $10 from recycling cans, you would need to have approximately 15.625 pounds of aluminum, which works out to around 485 (484.375 specifically) cans.
Prices offered in bottle bill states
As I mentioned earlier, there are 10 states that have beverage container laws. If you live in one of these states, you will get paid per can. This can result in much higher earnings.
The amount of money you’ll get per can will depend on the state you live in.
Here’s how much you can earn for beverage containers in each bottle bill state:
- California: 5¢ for containers that are less than 24 oz. and 10¢ for containers that are 24 oz. or greater.
- Connecticut: 5¢
- Hawaii: 5¢
- Iowa: 5¢
- Maine: 15¢ for wine and liquor and 5¢ for all other containers.
- Massachusetts: 5¢
- Michigan: 10¢
- New York: 5¢
- Oregon: 10¢
- Vermont: 15¢ for liquor and 5¢ for all other containers.
How much can I get for cans with bottle bills?
How much money you get depends on the state you live in and the number of containers you have.
To make $10 in a bottle bill state, you would need 200 cans in a state that pays $0.05 per container or 100 cans in a state that pays $0.10 per container.
As you can see, you’ll get way more money in bottle bill states than you would in states where you’re paid per pound. You would need 485 cans to make just $10 in a state with no bottle deposit laws, and just 100 to 200 cans in a bottle bill state.
Here are some answers to common questions about how to make money recycling aluminum cans.
How many aluminum cans do you need to make $100?
You would need 2,000 cans to earn $100 if you live in a bottle bill state where you get $0.05 per container.
And you’d need 1,000 cans to earn $100 if you live in a bottle bill state where you get $0.10 per container.
If you don’t live in a state with bottle deposit laws, you’ll get paid for the cans based on their weight.
To make $100, you would need to have 4,844 cans.
Divide $100 by the current market value for aluminum to get the number of pounds you’d need. So, 100 ÷ 0.64 = 156.25. You’d need 156.25 pounds of aluminum to earn $100.
31 cans = 1 pound.
156.25 x 31 = 4,843.75 (number of cans)
So, that means you’d need about 4844 cans to earn $100.
How many cans does it take to make $1,000?
You would need 20,000 cans to earn $1,000 if you live in a bottle bill state where you get $0.05 per container.
And you’d need 10,000 cans to earn $1,000 if you live in a bottle bill state where you get $0.10 per container.
If you don’t live in a state with bottle deposit laws, you’ll get paid by weight.
To earn $1,000, you would need 48,438 cans.
Divide $1,000 by the current market value for aluminum to get the number of pounds you’d need. So, 1000 ÷ 0.64 = 1,562.5. You’d need 1,562.5 pounds of aluminum to earn $1,000.
31 cans = 1 pound
1562.5 x 31 = 48,437.5 (number of cans)
So, that means you’d need about 48,438 cans to earn $1,000.
It would take a while to get your hands on 10,000 to 48,000 cans. So, try these side hustles to make an extra $1,000 or more a month instead.
When is the best time to sell aluminum cans?
Midweek can be a good time to head to your local recycling center or scrap metal center to cash in your cans. This is because Monday, Friday, and the weekend can be busy with people clearing out their homes. Tuesday to Thursday is the best time to sell aluminum cans if you want to get in and out of the scrap yard or recycling center quickly.
How many aluminum cans does it take to make $20?
It would take 400 cans to make $20 if you live in a bottle bill state where you get $0.05 per container.
And it would take 200 cans to make $20 if you live in a bottle bill state where you get $0.10 per container.
If you don’t live in a state with bottle deposit laws, you’ll get paid by weight.
To make $20, you would need 969 cans.
Divide $20 by the current market value for aluminum to get the number of pounds you’d need.
So, 20 ÷ 0.64 = 31.25. You’d need 31.25 pounds of aluminum to earn $20.
31 cans = 1 pound
31.25 x 31 = 968.75 (number of cans)
So that means you’d need about 969 cans to make $20.
How can I get money for aluminum cans?
You can get money for aluminum cans by taking them to your local scrap yard or recycling center where you’ll get paid for them based on their weight.
If you live in a state with bottle deposit laws, you can redeem your cans for cash at the grocery store, gas station, or local bottle redemption center. You’ll get paid per can.
Is aluminum recycling profitable?
You can make money selling aluminum cans yes. However, if you are looking to make $100s or $1,000s, then you would need tens of thousands of cans to do so. That’s not practical for most of us. You would be better off with other side hustles if you’re looking to make that type of money.
If you live in a bottle bill state, then you won’t need to get as many cans. So, this can be more profitable. Although making $100s or $1,000s from recycling cans can be hard, it is an easy way to make a few extra bucks from stuff you’d otherwise just throw out.
You can sell your aluminum cans at local recycling centers and scrap yards. And if you live in a state with bottle deposit laws, you can also take them to bottle redemption centers, grocery stores, and gas stations.
Although you won’t get rich from recycling aluminum cans, you can still make extra money and it’s so easy to do. You can make money from junk basically!
You’ll make more money if you live in a state with bottle deposit laws, or if you have a lot of cans to recycle. And, you can pick up extra cans from local restaurants, your workplace, from friends, and even on the street.
And that’s how you make money recycling aluminum cans!