I started recycling aluminum cans for money about two years ago and have found that it’s easier than I expected. It’s a great way to make a few dollars as well as feel better about doing your part to clean-up the space around you. In this article I'll cover what you need to get started, how the process works, what you require to get started, and how the experience has worked for me.
To recycle aluminum cans you will need four things: 1) space to store the cans, 2) a recycling facility or scrap yard within your driving distance, 3) a car or other means of moving large amounts of cans to the recycling facility, and 4) some extra time to work on this project.
The amount of space required depends on several factors, and I recommend a covered semi-outdoor space where you can store at least five large trash bags. If you have a large truck or you can only find time in your schedule to visit the recycling facility every couple of months, you might need more storage space. I recommend a garage or shed because those few drops of sugar water in each can will ferment and stink, especially in the summer.
If you do not have a truck or trailer and will transport the aluminum cans in your car, please consider buying a tarp or painting plastic to protect your car's interior from any leaking that may occur. I can currently fit about five large trash bags into my car, but I use a tarp in the trunk and back seat to protect my car.
Let's suppose that you have four bags of aluminum cans in your car ready for turn-in. Always call the recycling facility before your drive there. Most facilities are busy places, and if it's one of your first visits, you can arrange to have someone waiting for you. Most recycling facilities will have a large, flat scale next to which you can park. Once there, discuss with the operator what you're recycling and what rates they can provide you. Load the trash bags full of aluminum cans onto the scale. The operator will then calculate how many dollars the cans are worth. Then he will usually write you a check and move the cans to an aluminum pile. The only thing left to do is go deposit your sweet aluminum recycling check.
My local scrap yard pays $0.38 per pound of aluminum. From walking through my work parking lot and a 20-minute hunt every Saturday morning, I find about 10 pounds of cans a week. This is my usual schedule, but when I deliberately hunt, I find about 30 pounds in a morning. I personally enjoy this activity, and I hope that this article helps start you on the road to recycling aluminum cans.