Cash for Cans

Sep 15, 2009

When I was a little girl, my grandfather used to take me down to one of the local grocery stores. We’d go there with a big ol’ bag of aluminum cans because, in front of the store, was a can recycling machine. Back then, in NJ, you could get one cent for every can. I didn’t care about the money, though. I just thought it was a blast using the can machine. I had to feed every can individually into a little “hole” and then turn the lever, allowing the can to be put inside the machine and crushed. I thought it was great fun.

Looking back, it was probably pretty monotonous and chances are that is why my grandfather brought me to the Pathmark to do it! No doubt he didn’t want to wear out his arm loading cans for a penny a piece!

But I always looked forward to going. I probably made less than a dollar each visit, but it was the process of saving the cans and “turning them in” that I remember the best.

I’ve tried to give my kids a similar experience (though in Texas, I haven’t seen any of those one-can-at-a-time machines – thank goodness!) But, you can sell aluminum cans here for a little bit of a profit. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, my daughter and I started a “vacation fund” where we are saving money to take the family on a cruise. Most of our money in the account has come from selling things on Craigslist. Some, however, has come from selling aluminum cans.

In Austin, there are a bunch of places you can go where they buy aluminum (cans included.) Right before writing this post, I called two of them. One is currently paying 37 cents a pound and the other is paying 41 cents.

So, though I send all of our other recyclables to the city center, the cans, in our house, are held onto.

We keep a separate bag in the kitchen for our aluminum cans. When it gets full, we take them out to the garage to “store.” (We have also recruited my parents and some of our neighbors to help us out on this.) When we have accumulated about 3 or 4 big trash bags full of can, the kids and I make a trip to the closest (or highest paying) recycling center. We don’t make a lot per trip – maybe $8 - $10, but my kids are always thrilled with the money that we can now add to our vacation fund.

My favorite part is that the center just weighs the whole bag and gives us cash. No loading cans one at a time anymore!

My daughter’s Girl Scout Troop decided to do the same thing last year as a way to raise some extra money for trips and activities. The girls and their families collected the cans and then, one parent (usually a dad) took the cans to the center. The troop made about $40 doing this last year. Granted, that’s not a whole lot of money, but it’s enough to off-set a few expenses. And, these days, every little bit helps!

Last week, while listening to the radio, I heard a story about an 81-year-old man who spends his time going through the trash at local parks, searching for aluminum cans he can recycle for money. When he makes $250 from his cans, he sends the money to Operation Smile – an organization which goes around the world fixing cleft pallets of children who would otherwise never be able to afford the surgery. $250 will pay for one child to have a brand new smile.

So, before you throw away those aluminum cans, or even recycle them, think about how you can make a little extra money from them – for yourself, your family or even a meaningful charity.


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