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How to Make Easy Money Recycling Aluminum Cans

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A few days ago, I wrote about the many ways you can recycle your old car batteries and make a few extra bucks.

And in my research, I found the many other ways you can make money recycling, most of which are better than a car battery, such as aluminum cans and metal.  These items you can often find every day and continue to do so, meaning more money in your pocket.

While I already knew about recycling cans and making cash, I can only assume you already know it as well.

Let it be known that there’s quite a bit of money to be made in aluminum cans.  Sure, while some states do offer $0.05 to $0.10 per can, unfortunately, some states don’t offer a bottle deposit and ask that you simply recycle them at the curbside pickup.  Of course, this doesn’t make you any cash.

Well, did you know that instead of recycling them, you could just bag them up and turn them into cash at a local facility?

It won’t be much, but hey, if you’re an avid can drinker, the money could add up as most of these places will pay you by the pound.  I’m talking $10 or even $20+ per month.  It really depends on how much you drink, of course.

In today’s post, I wanted to talk about the many ways you can make money recycling your cans, how you can find more cans and even answer a few questions you may have.  So instead of recycling them, consider saving them for a few bucks.

If you don’t mind bagging up your cans and taking them to a center, then this post is for you.  Let’s dive in and see how you can make a few bucks.

How to Recycle Cans for Money

First, Make Sure the State Doesn’t Pay You

Only 10 states will pay you to bring your bottles back.

What’s known as the bottle bill, these states passed laws to encourage you to bring your bottles/cans back after consumption.  Generally, you will bring back the bottles to a grocery store, wherein you will insert bottles one by one into a machine and get a receipt at the end that’s worth cash once done.  It is this receipt that you will take to a cashier for cash.

As of this review, I went ahead and listed the states that have a bottle bill as well as what they will give you for each bottle:

  • California (5¢ for each container < 24 ounces and 10¢ for each container >24 ounces)
  • Connecticut (5¢)
  • Hawaii (5¢)
  • Iowa (5¢)
  • Maine (4¢)
  • Massachusetts (5¢)
  • Michigan (10¢)
  • New York (5¢)
  • Oregon (10¢)
  • Vermont (15¢ for liquor/5¢ for others)

If you live and/or are visiting any of these states and have cans you purchased in that said state, you will not make more than this rate.  You will always be better off returning the bottles for cash instead of using the strategies I’m about to mention.

If you don’t live in the above-mentioned states, then you will want to follow along here and see how you can cash in your cans, regardless of where you live.


From my research, the absolute best way to find a recycling center near you is via Yelp.

Yes, Yelp is more than just finding the best restaurant in town as it can help connect you with some great recycling centers as well.  Plus, you can see the reviews so that you know you’re dealing with a reputable organization.

Head to Yelp, search for something such as “recycling cans for money” and see what comes up.  Depending on where you live, you should be able to find at least three to five options.

But, what you’re going to want to do is make sure you read the reviews to maybe see what people are paying.  For instance, one of the highest recycling places near me had reviews claiming what they pay.  Here’s a review I found on that very page, for instance:

This could help save you time on the phone or at least give you an idea as to what they could pay.

I can’t stress it enough.  If you live in an area with a lot of options, call at least three locations to see which one offers the best rate for your cans.  You will find that they will all vary.

Google it

Usually, Yelp will provide the answers you’re looking for, but this isn’t always the case.

Whether you want more options or you’re just unhappy with the Yelp results, then searching for something such as “recycle cans for money near me” could yield some results as well.

Just like Yelp, Google does a nice job providing third-party reviews so this could give you an idea as to what kind of company you’re dealing with.  You can also find out what other people were paid as well.

If they have a lot of great reviews, then it could be one to consider; however, if it’s nothing but one and two stars, you may want to look elsewhere.

Download the iScrap App

The free iScrap app is an amazing tool to help connect you with local scrap yards that want to buy your aluminum cans off you.  You can also use the desktop version as well.

To use, just enter your zip code and take a look at the listings on the map.  Just make sure that you pay close attention to the “yard profile” as not all yards will accept aluminum cans.

For instance, here’s a yard near my home that was offering to buy my scrap metals.

As you can see, I could get $0.65 per pound, but another yard up to the road was only offering $0.50.  This is why it’s so important to compare rates to ensure you’re getting the best bang for your dollar.

If the yard is up to date, some will list their current prices, but this isn’t always the case.  So, if you have a lot of competition in your area, again, consider calling a few to see who’s offering the best rate.


Earth911 is said to be one of America’s most extensive recycling databases.

To use the website, you can either call 1-800-CLEANUP or you can simply search for the materials you’re looking to recycle.  Enter your zip code and browse through the centers in your area.

Be sure to closely read the listings as not all of them will pay you for your cans.  To ensure there’s a payment involved, you can click on the listing of interest and follow the official URL for more information.

I strongly encourage you to at least bookmark this website for anything you’re looking to recycle in the future as the database is quite extensive.  Even if the items you’re recycling isn’t of value, it’s still a good idea to at least dispose of it properly to help the environment. lets you put in your zip code and will then spit out the local recycling centers nearby that will pay you for your cans.   It doesn’t include just aluminum cans as you can find recycling centers for just about anything, including electronics, books and much more.

It’s a great alternative to the iScrap app as I found it to have more listings and be much more diversified.

Be sure to at least click on the listings to see what they accept as well as their hours of operation.

The website is 100% free and is available in all 50 states, working much like the website.

Enter your zip code, along with how far you want to travel and it will do the rest, letting you know exactly who will accept your cans.

The thing about this website is that you can actually choose the material you want to recycle, making it that much easier to find a place that has what you’re looking to recycle.

Where to Find Cans to Make More Money

If you like the idea of showing up with bags of cans and getting paid by the pound, then you probably already know that you can only drink so much.  This limits the amount you can save up, of course.

Well, if you have the energy and you don’t mind driving around town, there are some great hot spots you can check out to increase your inventory and make even more.

Of course, before you try any of these ideas, always make sure you have permission if you’re dealing with a private property before doing so just to be safe.  As for picking up cans in a public area, no one is probably going to stop you because, hey, you’re picking up litter after all, right?

With all of that out of the way, here are some places to consider to find a ton of cans:

  • local parks
  • ask family, friends or neighbors
  • parking lots
  • sporting events
  • events that tailgate
  • festivals
  • post an ad on Craigslist (even offer some money back if need be)
  • post an ad on Facebook
  • hiking trials
  • rest areas


How much can I make recycling cans?

Aluminum cans are highly market dependent, much like other metals, etc.  Like stocks, it’s hard to say.

From what I researched in the past years, you should expect to get anywhere from $0.30 to $1+ per pound, again, depending on the current market.

How many cans in a pound?

As you can see, scrap yards will pay you by the pound so you may be wondering how many cans are in a pound?

The average empty aluminum can weigh about half an ounce, which means you need about 32 cans to get to a pound.

Is it worth it?

This is really up to you to decide.

If your local recycling center is right up the road and your family drinks a 24 pack a week, then it could be worth it after a few months.

However, if you rarely drink out of cans and don’t live close to a center, then it’s probably safer to just recycle instead.

No one can value your time but yourself, so this is really up to you to decide.  Use the math given and go from there.

Final Thoughts

The next time you think about throwing away your cans, maybe set them aside for a few months to see how many you can gather.  It really does add up!

Doing the math, you should make about $0.50 to $1~ per 32 cans, making it worth the trip if you can get at least $20 worth of cans and you live near a recycling center.  Again, just make sure the numbers make sense and call around to ensure you’re getting the best deals.

And, as mentioned, if you live in a bottle bill state, then, you will always be better off bringing back the bottles to the store as you will get much more in comparison to a local scrap yard.

Do you recycle bottles?

Do you have strategies as to where to collect them?

As always, voice your opinions in the comment section below!

In the meantime, let it be known that you can make money with cans.  It won’t be much, but hey, it could at least fund a nice dinner out.

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Tom Nathaniel

Hi! My name is Tom Nathaniel, and I created LushDollar to help share my honest thoughts on everything money. You won't find gimmicks here. It's the Internet's most honest money site after all. I graduated from Arizona State University, and I have worked in the finance industry since 2006, consulting with multiple Fortune 5000 companies.

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