Aluminum Can Collecting for Money

October 27, 2015 by  
Filed under How To, Spotlight

Aluminum Can Collecting

Most of us now realize there are tons of opportunities to make cash recycling various items. From human hair (yikes) to circuit boards and everything in between. While the list of recyclables seems to be endless but I’m going to talk about just one of those items, aluminum can collecting for money.

“Aluminum can collecting for money could net 2.5 cents per can at current prices”.

Discarded cans are pretty well everywhere you look. And it’s no surprise really when grocery store aisles are dedicated to canned soups, sauces, fruits and vegetables. Canned soft drinks are even more prevalent.

Cool Facts about the Aluminum Can collecting.

1.   More than  80,000,000,000 aluminum cans are filled every year.

2.   An aluminum can could be back on the grocers shelf in as fast as 60 days after recycling.

3.   Aluminum cans are the single most recycled item in the U.S.

4.  An aluminum can – can be recycled repeatedly – forever.

5.   Recycling just a single aluminum can saves the energy equivalent to powering a TV for three hours.

6.   There was a time aluminum was more valuable than gold.

7.   An aluminum can thrown into landfill will, in theory,  still be there 500 years from now.

A garbage bag full of cans could be worth $12 – $15. You could collect four or five bags with some planning.

So to be a ‘canner’ yeah, that’s what they call themselves, you need to have a plan. Most of them probably started out of necessity. Some specific reasons cited are, “I don’t answer to a boss” or “I can make as much or as little as I need.”

It’s clearly the route to a little independence for some folks.

The activity itself is low impact since the cans are easy to handle. They weigh very little making them easy to carry or haul on a wagon.

So that’s fine if your happy with $15 or $20 a night. But what if you’re looking for $100 or $150 a night? I’ll go out on a limb and say, “yes” I believe it’s absolutely possible. If you want to make cash recycling cans – serious cash, it will require planning and dedication. Let me go step-by-step through what I figured out.

Here’s a true story.

Several years ago I rented a ground floor apartment. I loved this place because of it’s size and because it had two entrances. One being the door from the interior hallway and the other was the door from my patio.

I had a sliding patio door complete with a fenced in patio area. I even had a little gate. This was ideal. It made it easy to move bulky items in and out as well as giving me a direct route to the garbage bin and recycle bins. I could simply exit out my sliding door and make my way to one of the appropriate containers.

The best reason for aluminum can collecting is they’re plentiful.

This building had designated recycling bins as well as a large trash bin. By the time trash day arrived those containers and bin were jammed full. And there were boxes of additional cans and bottles sitting on the ground.

Having an apartment within viewing distance of the bins gave me a chance to witness all kinds of activity. But the most notable was the visit from ‘midnight-man’.

He actually showed up once a week around 3am.

The first time he woke me I thought it was close to midnight and the name just stuck.  So anyways, on that particular night I heard something rattling around the trash. I cracked open my blinds expecting to see an over-sized racoon digging around but instead I saw a professional canner.

This guy was middle-aged and looked a bit weathered. He had on tradesman type clothing, you know – the canvas pants and matching jacket.  In the moonlight I could see his shaggy mane and beard. He kind of looked like the Lon Chaney version of the Wolfman.

But what caught my attention was his mode of transportation. He had a mountain bike all decked out to haul loads of cargo. Behind his bike was what appeared to be a small platform trailer. It was definitely homemade. The back wheel of his bike had a shelf – a long wood plank that extended straight back from the seat post.

And there were two large canvas pouches, one on either side of the back wheel. This guy wasn’t kidding. Oh, one more thing, he also had a small plywood shelf that sat above the front wheel. Some serious thought had gone in to setting all this stuff up.

So all of this got me to thinking.

Why would this guy go to the trouble of building that rigging for his bike and creep around at 3am just to handle sticky cans?  I mean, he did it for the money of course. But I still wasn’t convinced he was making more than a few bucks. But what if there was a way to make a hundred or more a night. I wanted to learn what I could so I watched for him.

Each time he arrived he was already fully loaded up.

I have no idea where he was putting the additional cans from the apartment dumpster but he found space. And when I say he was loaded he had what looked like at least two full large garbage bags on his makeshift trailer. They were tarped and tied with bungy cord.

He also had full saddle-bags and more full garbage bags stacked up behind his seat. They sat higher than he did. And all of it lashed with rope or bungy cord.

If you ever saw the animated special, How The Grinch Stole Christmas…think of the overloaded sleigh after the Grinch robbed the town of their toys. That’s how this bike looked. It was crazy.

And yet here he was at this dumpster – still looking for more. This guy was my hero.  I only saw him at most once a week but he was obviously doing a route that ended somewhere around my place. I mean, he had no more space on that bike – he had to be at the end of the route.

Anyways, I started to tinker with some ideas as to what kind of money he was making. By doing so I came up with a few strategies that most anyone could use to make money at this.

There are probably even more ways to expand on what I came up with. If anyone feels up to sharing please leave a comment with your thoughts on this. So what I did was to first try and figure out Midnight Man’s strategy.

His transportation was well engineered and practical.

I bounced around the idea of having a pickup truck but it wouldn’t allow for stealth or access around some of the narrow walkways. Not to mention the added cost to run it.

So for the collection part, the rigged out bike was ideal.

Nowadays you could improve on it with one of those electric bikes but he had a great system. Now you need a staging area or storage while you wait for drop-off to the recycler.

A good strategy would be to stockpile each night’s haul in a garage or storage unit. Once you build up a certain amount use an  appropriate vehicle to deliver to the recycle center of your choosing. Yes, it’s an expense but it’s a single trip per full truck load.

Free or low cost storage would, of course, be ideal. Your truck should be fitted with some kind of rigging to carry the bike and trailer as well.  That way you could drive the truck to each neighbourhood you were working on that particular night. Park it somewhere safe then off-load the bike and trailer.

Make your rounds and come back and fill the truck.

Load the bike and trailer onto the truck and drive back to your storage area. Unload your night’s haul and get ready for the next night.

Once a week make your trip to a recycler or if you were working a neighbourhood that was close to a recycling center, take a load in beforehand. That way you get one out of the way and make the best use of your fuel.

Midnight Man didn’t have a truck, that I saw anyway. But it could definitely help to expand his operation. Imagine if you partnered up with someone. Or maybe developed a route and contacts you could easily turn a hobby of aluminum can collecting for money into something more serious. Maybe this could even become a full-time income.

Best of luck and collect well.

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