How Much Money Can You Make Selling Aluminum Cans?

Over 100 billion aluminum cans in the world are not recycled per year. That means billions of cans are either filling up landfills or are tossed on the side of the road. So, maybe you’ve wondered if you can collect some of those and turn them into a bit of cash.

But how much money can you make selling aluminum cans? Selling aluminum cans isn’t going to be the most lucrative money maker, but some people make upwards of $100 per week. Honestly, though, it requires a big upfront time commitment to see any sort of payoff.

So, let’s take a look at how the process works, how much you can make, and if it’s really worth it or not.

Why Recycle Aluminum Cans?

Recycling aluminum cans has two main benefits for you: it helps the environment and it can make you money. So, it’s really a win-win.

The world soda and beer consumption equates to people going through nearly 200 billion aluminum cans per year – or 6,300 cans per second!

Astonishingly, over half of those are either tossed in landfills or tossed on the side of the road.

So, if your automatic rejection of this money-making idea was that there wouldn’t be enough cans to make the effort worth it, hopefully that number leads you to reconsider.

How To Make Money Selling Aluminum Cans

The process of earning money by recycling cans can be broken down into two incredibly simple steps:

  1. Collect cans
  2. Recycle them

Out of the two steps, as you’ve probably assumed, collecting the cans is the most time consuming – and important – part.

How much you get paid is directly linked to how many cans you can collect, so the more the merrier!

Let’s be honest, saving up the few sodas that your family drinks won’t add up to a big paycheck at the end of the month. We need to be more creative than that. Here’s a couple ideas you can use to help build up your can stash quickly and efficiently:

  • Ask your friends to save their cans and give them to you
  • Ask your coworkers to give you their old cans
  • Go “collecting”
  • Ask restaurants if you can swing by each night and take their used cans away

You get the picture: the more creative you can be, the more cans you are able to stash up!

Out of all those options, the one that probably needs to be described the most is going collecting. It’s probably just what you think it is, going around town picking up aluminum litter on the sides of the road, gutters, etc.

Some people will even go as far as searching through dumpsters for old cans. This might be a more radical approach, but no doubt it pays off faster than others.

Disclaimer: in some states, going through people’s residential trash cans when left out on the street or searching through dumpsters is illegal, so always check your local laws before giving this a try. 

If you do decide to add collecting to your methods, it’s best to go early in the morning. Because, surprisingly, there are others who are doing the same thing, and you want to beat them to it. 

This is especially true in big cities, where there tends to be more litter. Either way, make sure you are safe, as walking around in most urban areas at the break of dawn can sometimes be a bad idea.

The next step is to bring them to the recycling center, where they will be weighed. Check on your local recycling center’s website or give them a quick call before you go, because sometimes you’ll be required to crush your cans before you drop them off.

How Much Can You Earn?

Honestly, you can’t earn very much collecting cans.

It most likely won’t become a full-time business for you, but it still can bring in some amount of money on the side. The current national average price for aluminum cans is approximately $.28/pound, and it takes about 32 cans to make one pound.

So, as you can already see, if you aren’t planning on dedicating some serious time to this, it’s not going to be worth it. You either have to go all in, or it will just be a waste of time.

But if you know where to look and you’ve been creative with your collection techniques, there are 100 billion not recycled aluminum cans in the world, which equates to $875 million. So, the problem isn’t a lack of cans, it’s just the difficulty in getting them.

Not to be discouraged, though, if you go collecting daily, you could make an average of $100 per week.

What Are The Startup Costs?

When it comes to recycling aluminum cans, there are no startup costs associated with it.

The only way you could incur upfront costs is if you decided to get something like a garbage picker, which can cost anywhere from $20-$35.

This garbage picker will help you stay clean when sifting through large dumpsters, because you won’t need to jump all the way inside to reach the cans that are buried under the trash.

Another potential startup cost would be plastic bags. You need something to carry all the cans in, so a pack of plastic bags wouldn’t be a bad idea. Fortunately, those will only run you $5-$10, unless you buy in bulk.

What I Like

  • No startup costs
  • Requires no previous knowledge or expertise
  • There’s never a shortage of cans to be recycled

What I Don’t Like

  • Requires a big time investment
  • Can earn very little compared to other methods
  • Can be dangerous if you go collecting early in the morning


Overall, there are much better ways you could make money. 

Yes, this can have no startup costs and it seems pretty straightforward. But unless you invest a huge amount of time and effort into this, you won’t see any worthwhile return.

If you don’t mind walking around, why not try your hand at being a door-to-door salesperson, earn a few extra bucks picking up trash, or consider becoming a local tourist guide. These are all simple ways to earn more than what you could selling cans.

And if you do decide to try this out, hopefully this article gave you some good tips and tricks to increase your chances of success.

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