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Sun 13 Jul 2008 - 7:42 pm UTC
I've just spent a day walking around the streets of two cities here in the UK and was very aware of the number of discarded aluminium drinks cans I saw on the pavement. When I'm in the United States, I see a 'regular' can collector, a gentleman who could well be homeless, who trundles around on his bicycle with a giant plastic sack over his shoulder full of old soft drink cans. I'm guessing that he goes somewhere and exchanges them for cash, and I'm pretty certain that in the USA there's a system whereby you pay a 'deposit' of around 5 cents every time you buy a can of drink (I think the deposit varies from state to state) so I'm assuming he's cashing in these deposits.
In the UK there's no such deposit system. But I would have assumed that an empty drink can is aluminium, and as such it presumably has some scrap value. My question is this. Am I looking a gift horse in the mouth by walking past these cans, instead of gathering them up and selling them as scrap? What, please, is the scrap value of one empty Coke (other soft drinks are available) can? And where might one take these cans in order to obtain the money that might lead to a life of luxury?
Sun 13 Jul 2008 - 8:47 pm UTC
In the United States, collecting empty soda cans isn't a road to riches for most folks, since the payoff is rather scanty for the amount of labor involved. My aunt and uncle (now deceased) used to supplement their retirement income by gathering cans and turning them in at a local aluminum recycling center. My aunt estimated that they earned about fifty cents an hour, but the can-gathering was good exercise, and a little bit of money is better than no money at all (according to my thrifty, energetic aunt). I am not trying to discourage people from participating in recycling; I think recycling is wonderful. But I don't think it's a very good way to earn money.
The average aluminum beverage can weighs about 1/2 ounce, so it takes approximately 32 cans to make a pound. Older cans may weigh more; in the 1970s, when my aunt and uncle were can-gatherers, the average was 24 cans to the pound.
The amount offered by recycling centers varies from time to time and place to place. At the moment, in my area (Tulsa, Oklahoma), 40 to 50 cents a pound is typical. Rarely, there are special fundraising deals in which higher prices are offered for a limited time. I've never seen an offer of more than 75 cents a pound during the "specials." So, if you have 32 cans in a pound, and you're earning the best-case rate of 75 cents a pound, you are looking at about 2.3 cents per can. In states where beverage-can deposits are required, returning the cans will be more lucrative, but still will not produce much of an income because of the amount of effort it takes to find and transport the cans.
It is easy to find a recycling facility. Most are listed in the telephone book. Check the Yellow Pages headings "Recycling Centers and Services" or "Scrap Metal." Pay rates are seldom advertised, since they fluctuate. It's best to phone and ask for the company's rates and requirements.
Keep in mind that picking up the cans is just the beginning of the labor. The cans must be rinsed out to remove sticky residue from their previous contents. They must be crushed flat and placed in bags or boxes, and they must be delivered to the recycling facility at the exact day and time that the facility accepts aluminum cans.
Here's an interesting article on the subject:
Recycling Aluminum Cans
I hope this is helpful!
Mon 14 Jul 2008 - 11:04 am UTC
That's very helpful Pink. Thank you. Can I just be sure that it is as easy to find a Scrap Metal centre in the UK as it sounds as though it is in the United States please?
A rough conversion suggests that a can might be worth a little over one penny in UK terms. I would always pick up a penny if I found one on the pavement, yet I walk past many discarded cans during the course of a day. I realise that there's work to be done in terms of collecting, cleaning, crushing, transporting etc - but I still think it's fascinating.
As a boy, I was encouraged to collect 'silver' milk bottle tops by the children's TV programme Blue Peter, who turned the aluminium into guide dogs for the blind. A milk bottle top would have had very little metal content compared to a soda can, I would have thought.
I've never heard of drinks cans being collected for charity in the UK. Maybe we've stumbled on an opportunity?
Could someone just confirm that it's possible to get money for cans in the UK, and I'll happily consider my question well and truly answered.
Thanks - Jon
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