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ANSWERED on Sun 13 Jul 2008 - 8:47 pm UTC by pinkfreud

Question: Scrap value of an aluminium can in the UK

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 13 Jul 2008 19:42 UTCSun 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?




 13 Jul 2008 20:47 UTCSun 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!

Best regards,




 14 Jul 2008 11:04 UTCMon 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


Roger Browne 


 14 Jul 2008 12:43 UTCMon 14 Jul 2008 - 12:43 pm UTC 

Hi Jon,

I was able to find the following UK site, in Belfast:

"Top Prices Paid for used Aluminium Beverage Cans. Clean used Aluminium Foil also purchased."

P. Kane Metals Recycling


Roger Browne 


 14 Jul 2008 12:47 UTCMon 14 Jul 2008 - 12:47 pm UTC 

Also, in Glasgow:

"We buy aluminium cans for cash. We process the aluminium cans for recycling at Alcan in Warrington where they are made into new cans."

Canstock (UK) Ltd


Roger Browne 


 14 Jul 2008 13:11 UTCMon 14 Jul 2008 - 1:11 pm UTC 

I've now found the definitive page:

"There are around 300 Cash for Cans centres across the UK, where you can sell your aluminium cans for cash ... You can use the cash to buy something for yourself ... or, why not set up a group collection for your school or favourite charity?"

Cash For Cans

There's also a link to a search page to locate your nearest Cash For Cans site. There's no mention of prices, but I guess scrap metal prices change on a daily basis and are unlikely to be listed on the website.




 14 Jul 2008 18:16 UTCMon 14 Jul 2008 - 6:16 pm UTC 

Thank you Pink and Roger. That's very helpful. Somewhat amazingly I find that one of the recycling centres listed on the definitive site is about two minutes walk from my home. I had no idea.

Time to start picking up cans, and to order that yacht.

A man can dream, can't he?




 14 Jul 2008 18:51 UTCMon 14 Jul 2008 - 6:51 pm UTC 

Thank you very much for the tip!

Many thanks to Roger (eiffel) for posting the Cash for Cans site. Having a recycling facility that is within walking distance of one's home is remarkable! When my aunt and uncle were can-mongers, they had to drive twenty miles to deliver the cans to a recycling center. When I remarked on the gasoline expense cutting into the profit, my aunt, ever the optimist, pointed out to me that this was "good exercise for the car."



Phil Answerfinder 


 15 Jul 2008 08:39 UTCTue 15 Jul 2008 - 8:39 am UTC 

It would be hard work to make a living out of it. It works out at well under 1p a can. However, if China's and India's demand for metals continue, it may well be worth keeping your eyes on the ground.

"Aluminium cans are worth about 40 pence/kg. It takes approximately 60 cans to make up a kilogram and about 50,000 to make up a tonne (crushed these would take up about four cubic meters). Most dealers will accept aluminium in amounts over one kilogram."

"There are approximately 60 cans in a kilogram
The payment currently is 40p per kg, but as the aluminium market can vary, this price is liable to go either up or down"




 15 Jul 2008 11:17 UTCTue 15 Jul 2008 - 11:17 am UTC 

I infer from Answerfinder's comment that it might be worthwhile stockpiling  your cans.  I reckon the odds of the price going down are negligible, since demand will stay up and producing aluminum (aluminium) uses a lot of electricity, which won't get cheaper.
There are hand-powered crushers, but I found it easier and much faster to stomp them wearing heavy shoes.  It's a nice useful way to work of aggression:  "Take that, Xyz!"  Crunch.



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