Aluminum cans are the most recycled drink container in the United States. In 2013, 1.72 billion lbs., roughly 60.2 billion cans were recycled. That is a recycling rate of nearly 70%. The energy saved by this kind of recycling equals roughly 19 million barrels of crude oil. The amazing benefit of this is the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and the reduction of landfill mass. It is certainly one of the most sustainable metals in the world, and generates the most money to the consumer who bothers to take it to an aluminum recycling center near them. When searching for a can recycle center near you try to find a facility that offers the highest payout per pound. You can try looking on the website of the local facility to see if they have advertised their payout price. You can also use the map below to find a can recycling center in your area.
Table of Contents
Locate The Closest Aluminum Can Recycle Center In Your Area
What makes aluminum cans so unique is that they are often recycled back into themselves, containing nearly 70% recycled material. That is 3 times more than plastic or glass. This translates into the can’s leaving a good environmental footprint. It also has a high value for re-selling, making recycling programs possible. Scrap aluminum gets $1367 per ton, as compared to plastic that only gets $310, and glass actually gets $0 per ton. Cans are also getting lighter, while continuing to stay durable. This leads to better efficiency for shipping, and eventually less waste.
Aluminum can recycling has grown consistently since the early 2000’s. That being said, every year there are close to 40 billion cans that end in landfills. That’s $800 million worth of aluminum. This is catastrophic to the environment and economy. Using recycled aluminum to make a can saves 92% of the energy it takes to create a new one. Millions of homes could be powered for an entire year using that saved energy.
Highest Payout For Can Recycling Nearby
The increase in the recycling of aluminum cans can be attributed to the addition of imported cans. This is perpetuated by the cans’ closed-loop aspect, being able to be recycled back into themselves. Imported cans cross the border from Canada and Mexico with some coming from as far as Poland and Saudi Arabia. In 2012, close to 13 billion cans came from the imported industry, which is nearly double from just five years ago. The increased rate for recycling aluminum cans is parallel to the growth in the scrap recycling industry as a whole. The US scrap recycling industry expanded from $54 billion in sales in 2009, to more than $90 billion in 2012. Perhaps it is due to the fact that it takes only 5% of the energy to produce recycled aluminum rather than primary aluminum.
Whatever the reason for increased aluminum can recycling, the benefits are incredible to the environment and economy. Hopefully, this will continue, as it is imperative to lower the amount that goes into landfills every year. As humans, we should do what we can to lower our carbon footprint, and leave our future generations a planet that is not filled with tons of trash, when it could simply be recycled. It’s a simple process to start recycling your aluminum cans, and that is only one part of the bigger picture. It should be every person’s responsibility to play their role in creating less waste for our children, and our children’s children. Go out and find an aluminum can recycle center near you.
How to Recycle Aluminum Cans
When it comes to aluminum can recycling, it really couldn’t be much easier. Not only do many municipalities offer curbside pick-up, but because aluminum recycling is one of the most valuable forms of scrap that recycling centers might deal with, it’s rare that a recycling center won’t accept aluminum.
Let’s look at each of your options for aluminum can recycling:
- Putting your cans out for curbside pickup
- Taking your aluminum cans to a recycling center
- Donate your aluminum cans to a school or charity
Depending on where you live, one, two, or all three of those options may apply for you and your aluminum cans. A few steps will apply no matter which of three options you choose, though, so let’s talk about those steps first.
Start by rinsing your aluminum cans out before setting them aside wherever you store your recyclables. For most cans, simply rinsing the cans a few times with hot water will be enough to remove any residue; for sticky or otherwise extraordinarily messy cans, however, you may need to let them soak full of hot water. Cleaning your cans in this way to remove any residue helps eliminate odors, which in turn lessens the likelihood of bugs or other pests showing up in your recycling.
While you no longer are required to crush your aluminum cans before recycling, it can still be a good idea if it helps you save space in your recycling area. And about that recycling area: You should have designated space for your aluminum cans so that when it’s time to put them out for curbside collection, take them to a recycling center, or drop them off for a local school or charity fundraiser, you can do so in an organized manner. If you have a designated recycling container provided by your municipality, great, but if not, it’s easy enough to set aside a large plastic tote, for instance.
Finally, determine the best way to ensure your aluminum can recycling is easily picked up (for instance, which day is your curbside pickup, or when are the best times to take your recyclables to a local recycling center). Make it part of your normal weekly routine and it will be much easier to get into an aluminum can recycling rhythm.
A few other things to consider: If you live in one of the 10 states with a bottle bill, you can take your aluminum cans to a recycling center for cash—generally 5-10 cents per can. That can add up quickly! Those 10 states with bottle bills are California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon, and Vermont. Just make sure that if this is an option in which you are interested that you do your homework; each state may have their own restrictions. And if you live in a different country, check your local rules and programs—there may still be a way to recycle your aluminum for cash.
Finally, a word of caution: Use caution when sorting through and cleaning your aluminum cans, as the rough edges can easily cut your skin.
Should Aluminum Cans Be Crushed Before Recycling?
It used to be that aluminum cans needed to be crushed before they could be recycled. That’s no longer the case. However, you may still wish to crush your aluminum cans for simple space considerations.
Especially if you are recycling larger quantities of aluminum cans, those cans can take up a significant amount of space rather quickly. Beyond that, though, it can actually get a little more complicated, and depend on how you are recycling your cans.
For multiple-stream recycling, for instance, where everything is already separated, crushed cans can help save space and consequently make transporting recyclable materials more efficient. For single-stream recycling, however, where recyclables are separated at a Materials Recovery Facility, aluminum cans should not be crushed—because it’s easier for the sorting machinery to sort out intact cans.
In general, though, it’s far more important that you are recycling aluminum cans than whether or not you are crushing those aluminum cans—especially as 40 million cans end up in landfills each year.
What Aluminum Can Be Recycled?
This may depend on your local recycling program. In general, nearly every recycling program will take aluminum cans. Many other aluminum products, however, can also generally be recycled. It just depends on what the recycling program is, really.
For instance, many curbside recycling programs will accept most household aluminum beverage and food products provided they are clean, including aluminum cans, aluminum foil, aluminum baking trays, and even aluminum pie pans.
Industries that use aluminum may have their own programs. For instance, construction contractors frequently use aluminum, whether in siding, gutters, or cables; contractors may have their own recycling programs if working on a large enough scale, or they may work with scrap yards that take their aluminum. Similarly, many automotive parts are collected for recycling when they are replaced; individual shops may have their own recycling programs (if they’re part of a larger network of shops, for instance) or they may work with scrap yards. In fact, more than 90 percent of aluminum used in building and automotive industries are recycled at the end of their use, serving as feedstock that is then melted down by aluminum recyclers to then be used in the secondary production process.
Why Is Aluminum So Easily Recycled?
Aluminum cans are quite possibly the most easily recycled recyclable in the United States, in addition to being the most valuable beverage container when it comes to recycling. In fact, each year more than $800 million is paid out for aluminum cans. A huge part of why so much is paid out is because aluminum cans are 100% recyclable and can be recycled indefinitely. In fact, it is currently cheaper, faster, and more energy-efficient to recycle aluminum cans than it ever has been before!
As a result, nearly a third of all aluminum used in the United States is derived from recycled materials. Not only is aluminum the most abundant metal on earth, but an average of more than 100,000 aluminum cans are recycled every single minute.
When it comes to easily recycling aluminum cans, consider these 10 aluminum can recycling tips:
10 Tips for Aluminum Can Recycling
- Rinse and drain the aluminum cans. If your cans aren’t clean, they can attract insects and pests. Instead, store them clean and dry.
- Consider crushing your cans to save space. The one exception may be if you are taking your cans to a multiple-stream facility. Still, it may be worth considering how much space you can save in your vehicle if you crush cans before hauling them.
- If you collect cans to recycle them, exercise caution. While aluminum cans can readily be found in trash cans or on the side of the road, making them a relatively easy revenue source if you’re recycling for cash, you can also easily cut yourself on the sharp edges. As a result, it’s in your best interests to use gloves or tools that can protect your hands.
- Keep your cans clean. If you use your cans for ashtrays, for instance, that can make them harder to recycle later.
- Separate your aluminum cans out from other recyclables. This is especially true in states with bottle bills.
- In bottle bill states— California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon, and Vermont—keep your aluminum cans separate so you can take them somewhere. At 5-10 cents each, returning your aluminum cans for the deposit can add up to a significant total pretty quickly.
- If you live in a bottle bill state (or close enough to a bottle bill state to make driving to one worth it), find a facility that will both take your aluminum cans and pay for them. As noted previously, at 5-10 cents each, returning your aluminum cans for the deposit can up to a significant total pretty quickly.
- If you don’t live in a bottle bill state, it may still be worth calling local scrap yards and asking what they pay for aluminum. An additional benefit of working with scrap yards is that you get cash for more than just aluminum cans; while you’ll need to clarify with each individual scrap yard what aluminum (and other metals, for that matter) they’ll pay for and at what rates, this can be another way to make some cash.
- Because aluminum can be recycled forever, it has great recycling potential. And while cans do generally get recycled back into cans, aluminum cans (and other aluminum products) do eventually have to be downcycled, which means that the higher grade aluminum you have, the more valuable it can be.
- As a result, consider other aluminum you might have that scrap yards might be willing to pay for, including automotive parts, siding, gutters, and more. Just keep in mind that every state and municipality may have different laws about what materials you can scrap, so be sure to check regulations first. (For instance, some places say automotive parts can only be scrapped by auto shops.)
Can Aluminum Be Recycled Indefinitely?
For the most part, yes! While aluminum does eventually have to be downcycled, the truth is it can be recycled over and over and over again. For instance, most high-grade aluminum can be recycled as high-grade aluminum for a bit before it works its way down to aluminum cans and aluminum cans can be recycled back into aluminum cans (and can, in fact, be turned around in 60 days or less).
Eventually, the aluminum needs to be mixed with higher-grade aluminum or bits of fresh aluminum in the recycling process, but the truth is that aluminum really can be recycled indefinitely. And roughly a third of all aluminum out there in use today is recycled aluminum; in some industries (such as construction and automotive, for instance) up to 90% of all aluminum gets recycled.
Recycling Cans for Money
Even better, aluminum cans can quite readily be recycled for money. If you live in a bottle bill state— California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon, and Vermont—you can pretty easily return aluminum cans for the deposit of 5-10 cents each. Even if you don’t live in a bottle bill state, scrap yards may be willing to buy your aluminum from you. As a result, its often well worth making a few phone calls to determine what forms of aluminum your local scrap yards accept and what rates they pay, as well as for how long they are willing to honor that rate.
How Much Are Aluminum Cans Worth?
In bottle bill states, it can be easy to determine exactly what each can is worth. All you need to do is look up what the deposit is in that state, and voila, you know exactly how much your aluminum cans are worth, whether that’s 5 or 10 cents each.
In other places, however, it depends on your local scrap yards and the rates they offer. Additionally, most scrap yards pay by the pound, so you’ll need to know how much your cans weigh (depending on the cans, it may be anywhere between 20-40 cans per pound; newer cans are generally lighter than older cans) or simply regularly weigh your aluminum recycling container, remembering to tare out the weight of the container itself.
While prices at scrap yards vary, a good ballpark to keep in mind is between 40-50 cents per pound for aluminum cans. If you figure 30 cans to a pound and 50 cents per pound, for instance, that works out to 1.6 cents per can. While that isn’t much, it can still add up. So if you’re someone that goes through a lot of aluminum cans—or even better, works somewhere where you have access to a great deal of aluminum can recycling—this can still add up over time.
How Much Is a Pound of Aluminum Cans Worth?
That depends; older cans are heavier than newer cans, which can make a difference in bottle bill states. In 1972, for instance, it took roughly 22 empty aluminum cans to weigh one pound; in 2002, it took 34 empties to add up to a pound. Newer cans may be lighter yet; for argument’s sake, though, let’s assume that even with the lightest aluminum cans, 40 empties will make a pound of cans.
As a result, if you live in a bottle bill state you could make as much as $4.00 per pound (40 aluminum cans at 10 cents per can) and can generally count on at least a dollar or two per pound. If you don’t live in a bottle bill state or near enough to reasonably drive to one, however, you can still sell aluminum cans to scrap yards. Most scrap yards are currently offering between 40 and 50 cents per pound of aluminum, which can still add up over time.
Where Can I Take My Aluminum Cans for Cash?
If you live in a bottle bill state, you should readily be able to find a collection center; taking your aluminum cans to a location where they’ll give you cash deposit back on those cans is definitely the best way to make money on aluminum can recycling.
If you don’t live in a bottle bill state, however, it’s still worth calling your local scrap yards and asking what rates they pay for aluminum cans. If you have recycling aluminum cans for your local scrap yard with enough regularity, even 40 cents per pound can add up over time.
Where Can I Recycle Aluminum Cans Near Me?
There are plenty of apps and search functions out there that can help you find the best prices near you for aluminum can recycling. One of our favorites is the iScrap app.
- Aluminum Can-do Attitude – Information on energy saved by recycling aluminum cans.