When I was a kid, growing up in rural Louisiana, one of ways I would make extra money was to spend a day or two collecting aluminum cans, and redeeming them for cash.
When you were a kid did you ever find yourself collecting and recycling aluminum cans?
I think for a time, when times were tight, my whole family would join in to bring in some extra cash.
I’d take off on my bike with a friend, or sometimes Mom would drive us around. We’d spend an afternoon collecting as much as we could from just about everywhere.
I cringe thinking about where we might have obtained these cans. I guess most of it was on the road side though. There’s quite a bit of aluminum can litter out there.
Next time we would head into “the city” we would swing by the aluminum can redemption center. Thinking back on this place, it was probably just a middle man. He would buy from us and take them to the actual recycling center.
The Questionable Can Collecting Middle-Man
I have a random memory concerning the guy at the place where we would drop off the cans…
After weighing all our bags of cans, the man would always say, “40 lbs…$8 dollars”. It seemed every time we dropped off a load of cans, the story was the same: “40 lbs…$8 dollars.” Really?!?
It actually turned into a joke amongst my family and friends. Whenever someone questioned how much something weighed, we would all reply, “40 lbs…$8 dollars.”
It always seemed like the guy was just giving us what he wanted versus what the cans were actually worth in weight. I guess that’s kind of a sad story really. Kids work hard to earn an extra buck or two, and they get taken by the shady can counter guy.
Eventually I wised up and spent my time on more cost effective money earning efforts, like cutting lawns and washing cars.
Price for Aluminum Cans
These days, cans are fetching a little more than double the price I got as a kid. As of this post, the price for cans is around .85 a pound. Source: ScrapMetalPricesAndAuctions.com
Other Aluminum Can Collectors and Recycling Stories
Trent from The Simple Dollar collected cans as a kid. He tells a sad, but captivating story about his can collecting experience and how it affected his attitude towards money and savings. This is a great read.
Then there’s the true story of Maisie Devore, an eighty-something Kansas woman, who spent one day every month collecting cans for thirty years (video) to raise money for a community swimming pool. She was able to save $73,000 over the three decades and now the community is enjoying their pool. She still collects cans to help pay for pool maintenance.
Want to start a can collecting business? It’s all about scale. Find a local recycling center near you by visiting http://earth911.com/.
Did you ever collect cans as a way to make a little extra money? What was your favorite way to make money as a kid?