Cans for Cash

Recycling Aluminum Cans

Why collect and sell? | How can you sell? | How much money can you make? | Tips to get started | Scrap University KidsInspiring stories | Helpful articles  

The aluminum beverage can is the most recycled drink package in the United States and the world, and it typically is one of the highest value commodities in the recycling stream. You can earn income for yourself or for the charity of your choice by selling used aluminum beverage cans (UBC) to your local metal scrap yard.

Why collect and sell aluminum beverage cans to be recycled?

You will stimulate the economy. Used beverage cans are one of the most valuable recyclable commodities. In fact, the metal recycling industry supports more American jobs and has a greater economic impact than all other recyclable materials combined.

You will help the environment. When new beverage cans are made with recycled aluminum material, there is a more than 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and more than 90% savings in energy use when compared to making a can with primary aluminum.

You will create less waste considering metal recycles forever! Rather than going to a landfill, recycling a beverage can ensures the infinitely recyclable aluminum can be made into a new can and back on the shelf in 60 days.


How can you sell aluminum beverage cans?



You simply bring your used beverage cans to a scrap yard where they will inspect your cans, weigh the total, and offer you a price. Call ahead though, as not all metal scrap yards buy used beverage cans and some may require a minimum amount.

How much money can you generate for yourself or your selected

charity by collecting aluminum beverage cans?


If you would like to estimate the money you could potentially make from selling used aluminum cans, you can use the link below to see the nationwide average price for UBCs per pound, according to the iScrap App. You can also call your local scrap yard to see how much they are paying per pound. Note that one pound is a little more than 30 aluminum beverage cans.  

Want to get started? Here are some helpful aluminum beverage can recycling tips:

More is better

  • The larger amount of aluminum cans you turn in, the larger payment you will receive! It is important to find storage space to accumulate your stash of cans and make sure you have a way to transfer them easily to the scrap yard. Can crushers, such as this individual one or this industrial one, are a great tool to collect more by minimizing the space used in storing the cans (but a friendly reminder to not crush your cans when putting cans in your curbside recycling as it may lead the facility that sorts single stream recyclables to missort the cans).

Clean your cans

  • Be conscious of rinsing out the liquid in the aluminum beverage cans before bringing them to the scrap yard. Some beverages like carbonated soft drinks leave a sugary residue and could attract insects and other pests if kept unclean. Clean cans ensure acceptance and a full payout by the scrap yards.

Source from community

  • A great way to clean up your community’s environment and earn some extra cash is to pick up the cans littered outside! This could be done near a local sports stadium, parks and recreational areas. A safe way to collect the cans is to use gloves and a picking tool to not risk getting cut. You could also work with a local brewer, school, restaurant or other areas with high can use to have them give you their cans or to set up a receptacle just for can collection that you service.

Know the rules

  • Some common laws for returning scrap metal involve photos of the material, payment of cash or check, and seller ID information. Learn more about the common scrap metal laws and your specific state’s laws. Also, there are 10 states that have “deposit” systems where people pay a deposit when they buy a can and that deposit can be redeemed when a can is returned. In those 10 states, you do not need to bring the can to a metal scrap yard to get paid for cans. You can also bring cans bought in that state to a redemption center to receive the deposit.   

Scrap University Kids is helping schools collect metal for cash. Their goal is to eliminate metal from the waste stream within the next 30 years through education. They want to teach kids that their everyday actions make a lasting impact on the environment. Choosing to use reusable or recyclable materials is one way we can make a difference. All metal can be recycled, so if you can choose, please choose metal. Together, we can help protect our amazing planet and even improve it for the next generation. 

One resource at Scrap University Kids is The Girl Who Recycled 1 Million Cans. This book is a valuable resource for teaching children about recycling, math, community involvement, financial literacy, perseverance, teamwork, and philanthropy. Use it as a tool to inspire children to take an interest in recycling! 

See how Scrap University and others helped the Green Team at George Washington Elementary School earn needed funds for their school by hosting a metal can collection.


Check out the inspiring ways people are using the cash from recycling aluminum cans for a good cause!


Everyone has the opportunity to sell UBCs for extra income or for a charity. Here are some stories of how others have successfully collected and sold cans to generate needed funds:   

More than 25 fire department stations in New Jersey have joined together to facilitate a fundraising activity called Aluminum Cans for Burned Children. The funds generated from collecting and selling all the beverage cans donated by the community help support The Burn Center in assisting children’s treatment.

An elementary school in Maryland has created a recycling program for aluminum beverage cans within their school cafeteria that is open for donations year-round. The funds collected after selling the beverage cans to a local recycling center are used to provide free breakfast and lunches to student in need.

For more than three decades, a man from Georgia has collected aluminum beverage cans littered on the side of the road and from various local community organizations. This accumulated to more than $400,000 that he has donated to a charity that provides a home for children and families in need.


Denis Kweri was looking for a way to raise money to build wells and schools in his hometown, and aluminum cans were his solution. He and his wife founded Kubi for Hope and have partnered with schools and the Kansas City airport to collect enough cans to fund projects in Uganda and South Sudan including providing meals, building a school and a church, and installing a water pump.


Ardagh Group, a leading beverage can manufacturer, spearheads a yearly can recycling program throughout the Chicago area, securing aluminum beverage cans for recycling and donating the proceeds to the Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana. Ardagh locations in the Chicago area have led this annual effort for almost 20 years, with approximately 300 teammates contributing yearly. Teammates collect cans and bring them to their respective locations to be recycled. Ardagh then works with United Scrap, which buys and recycles the cans, and Ronald McDonald House Charities® chapter, which applies proceeds from the recycled cans to further their mission of keeping families with hospitalized children together.



A leading aluminum producer and recycler, Novelis, partners with Habitat for Humanity International to catalyze collection and sale of aluminum beverage cans to help fund Habitat homes across the United States and Canada. In this partnership, Novelis provides recycling bins along with grants to enable Habitat for Humanity affiliates to collect aluminum beverage cans, which are then sold to local metals recyclers to raise funds for home builds and refurbishments. In a pilot with 39 Habitat affiliates, nearly one million aluminum cans were recycled over two and a half months during COVID, raising more than $11,000. Following this success, Novelis has invited 140 Habitat for Humanity affiliates to participate in this program to collect cans for cash, which increases neighborhood sustainability and funds affordable housing.


Others Recycling Cans for a Good Cause: 

Read these helpful articles for additional information on how to collect and recycle aluminum beverage cans.

Aluminum Can Prices: Get the Most For Your Recycling | The PennyHoarder

How to Make Money Recycling Aluminum Cans (Up to $100 Per Week) | Well Kept Wallet

Make Money Recycling Aluminum Cans: How to Get Paid the Best Price |

Where you Can Recycle Your Aluminum Cans | iScrapp App