How to Get Cash for Cans (A Complete Guide)
If you’re like me, your childhood memories include bi-weekly trips to the redemption center with your parents. The trunk was packed with trash bags full of aluminum cans, ready to be thrown down the shute in exchange for some cash.
While incredibly popular in the ‘90s, recycling aluminum cans is still a beneficial habit for the earth and your wallet. Whether you’re racking up soda cans from a Diet Coke obsession or want to get rid of the bags of beer cans after your weekly football viewing parties, you’re in the right place.
Here’s how to turn recycling aluminum cans into a profitable side hustle — or just a way to subsidize the cost of your future beer and soda purchases.
Aluminum Can Prices: How to Maximize Value
In the United States, 10 states have bottle bills — California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon, and Vermont.
Bottle bills, also called container deposit laws, require states to provide a monetary incentive to consumers for recycling bottles and cans. The idea is that consumers may feel more inclined to participate in recycling their cans if they’re offered a monetary incentive.
This, in turn, helps the planet. Beverage containers, like aluminum cans and plastic bottles, are one of the most littered items in the country. An incentive to recycle these items instead helps states control the amount of litter found in parks, streets, and other public spaces.
States with bottle bills have refund values of around 5 to 10 cents per container as a monetary incentive to fork over your cans before throwing them into the trash. That said, they each have their own rules regarding what they accept. If you live in one of the 10 states listed above, review the requirements to make sure the cans you collect qualify.
3 Places to Get Cash for Cans
Where you sell your aluminum cans depends on where you live, the amount of cans you have, and what you’re hoping to get for them.
1. Reverse Vending Machines (5 to 10 cents per can)
If you live in a bottle bill state, many of your local grocery stores will have reverse vending machines (RVMs). These allow you to feed your cans and bottles into the machine in exchange for a voucher.
The amount each can is worth depends on your state. You can find the exact value by looking at the amount written on the can, often etched into the top of the can. In most cases, each can will be worth around 5 to 10 cents.
2. Local Redemption Centers (5 to 10 cents per can)
If your local grocery store doesn’t have an RVM, search for redemption centers near you. Redemption centers offer the same experience at a larger scale, often with several RVMs for customers to use.
You’ll see the same earnings as you would at the grocery store — 5 to 10 cents per can. That said, if your state doesn’t have a bottle bill, you likely won’t find a redemption center near you.
3. Scrap Yards ($0.21 to $1.65 per pound)
If you don’t live in a bottle bill state, you’ll need to find a local scrap yard to take your cans. Scrap yards are also ideal for getting rid of aluminum cans in bulk.
You’re able to show up with a large amount of cans, get some cash for your cans, and be on your merry way. No need to drop them one-by-one into the reverse vending machine.
That said, they might not pay as much as your local redemption center. They’ll typically pay per pound, so you’ll need quite a few cans to get a decent bit back. For reference, it takes around 32 cans to have a pound.
The following are the going rates for aluminum scraps, including cans, purchased by scrap yards, according to Scrap Monster. These rates are for one major city in each state.
How to Find the Best Place to Sell Aluminum Cans Near You
A simple Google search — like “aluminum can recycling near me” or “where to sell aluminum cans near me” — will yield some results. You’ll likely see a few redemption centers or scrap yards near you.
As a general rule of thumb, however, RVMs and redemption centers are the best place to sell aluminum cans if you live in a bottle bill state. If you don’t live in a bottle bill state, scrap yards will be your best bet.
If you have access to all three options, consider the pricing data we’ve shared in this article when choosing where to bring your cans.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Aluminum Cans Do You Need to Make $100?
The number of cans it takes to make $100 depends on how much you’re redeeming each can for. For example:
- 5 cents per can → 2,000 cans
- 10 cents per can → 1,000 cans
- $0.30 per pound (32 cans per pound) → Roughly 333 pounds, or 10,656 cans
- $0.50 per pound (32 cans per pound) → 200 pounds, or 6,400 cans
Are Cans Still Worth Money?
Yes! Aluminum cans are worth around 5 to 10 cents in bottle bill states. In states without bottle bills, they’re worth around $0.21 to $1.65 per pound.
How Many Aluminum Cans Make One Pound?
It takes roughly 32 aluminum cans to make one pound.
How Much is a Garbage Bag Full of Cans Worth?
A large, industrial-sized garbage bag can fit between 300 to 400 aluminum cans. If redeemed for 5 cents per can, you’d earn around $15 to $20 per bag.
Where Are Aluminum Cans Worth the Most?
Aluminum prices vary by state, but generally speaking, they’ll be worth the most at redemption centers in states with a bottle bill.
Is Selling Aluminum Cans a Good Side Hustle?
We’ll keep it real — selling aluminum cans won’t make you rich. Unless you consume a large amount of canned beverages, or want to start collecting cans as a hobby, the time it takes to collect and redeem the cans won’t be worth the cash you earn.