Aluminum Can Prices in the USA

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The life cycle of the aluminum can in the United States is quite remarkable. Producing virgin aluminum can be a costly and expensive process, but aluminum can be recycled over and over again once its been made. Since aluminum cans are one of the most common ways we use this product today, this form of scrap metal has been grouped into its own category for American pricing. This helps us all preserve the bauxite in the Earth’s crust which is used to create the refined metal.

It only takes 5% of the energy to produce new aluminum cans from old ones compared to making them from scratch.

There are two primary methods of recycling cans that are offered in the United States: through deposit return and through a per pound rate at a local scrap yard. Here’s what you’re going to need to know to get started with recycling your aluminum cans today.

Products to Assist with Your Recycling Efforts

ImageProduct NameDetails
"The Crusher" Aluminum Can CompactorEasily crush your cans for recycling
EcoSense Blue 19 Gallon Recycling Tub with Rope HandlesStore your aluminum cans for recycling
Green Zone CanPactorAll in one can crusher & storage bin

What Are the Current Prices For Aluminum Cans?

Recycling-Aluminum-CansAluminum cans that are processed at a metal scrap yard will typically provide a price that is about 50% of what the general aluminum commodities spot price happens to be. This 50% discount includes the scrap yard premium that helps them make money from the recycling effort. This means a spot price for aluminum at $0.70 will generally provide a $0.35 per pound rate when turned in for recycling.

Aluminum cans are also part of a deposit and return program in 10 states in the USA. With the deposit and return program, retail outlets that sell products in aluminum cans are required to charge a nickel or a dime on top of the listed price to help pay for local recycling programs. When you return the aluminum can, then you receive the nickel or the dime back. For many households, this becomes a rotating cost that never really increases or decreases after the initial purchase.

For those who are hunting down aluminum scrap to turn in, however, there can be a high degree of financial compensation. Many communities have automated return machines where all you do is place your aluminum can in a recycling machine. The machine counts how many cans you turn in and then prints out a ticket for compensation. A 30 gallon trash bag can produce $6-$12 worth of aluminum can deposits.

Are There Different Types of Aluminum Cans?

60% of the American aluminum scrap recycling market comes from beverage cans. Older cans and niche beverage containers, however, may be made from tin rather than aluminum. Tin cans will not be accepted for recycling with other aluminum cans unless they are being taken as part of a city or regionally based recycling program.

What is often ignored when recycling aluminum cans are the containers that hold something other than a beverage. In the United States, you will find these aluminum cans available to recycle in addition to beer and beverage containers.

  • Aluminum bottles. These may also contain beverages, but could also contain food products. They are shaped like a glass bottle, but are most definitely metal. They can be included with your aluminum cans.
  • Aluminum food containers. You’ll find canned meat usually tends to be the primary source of aluminum cans that contain food. Spam and Vienna sausages are the two products most often consumed. Corned beef hash may also come in an aluminum can.
  • Aluminum pet food cans. Many pet food containers are still made from aluminum, but must be thoroughly cleaned before send to a recycling facility.
  • Aluminum aerosol cans. These may hold paint, varnish, or other liquid substances that are sprayed out of a nozzle. You’ll need to remove the nozzle before sending this can to the scrap yard.

Since the 19th century, nearly three-quarters of the aluminum that has been created in the United States is still in use in some way. By recycling your aluminum cans at a fair, competitive price, you get to join this cycle of life that helps to make life easier for us all. 

How To Find Aluminum Cans

Because aluminum cans are used for so many different types of beverages, you can find them just about everywhere in your community. If you’re wanting to turn them in for scrap money, then you can find them along roadsides, in trash cans and dumpsters, and anywhere that offers beverages in a retail fashion.

In some cities, you might find people digging through curbside recycling containers to take cans away for scrap. The legality of this action depends on the community. Normally a sidewalk is considered to be a public right of way, so any trash placed on the sidewalk at the curb or within the 2-3 foot right of way from the street is technically considered to be in the public domain. To prevent this action, some communities have passed laws that make this act illegal because it takes money away from a recycling program.

If you live in a state that offers deposits on your aluminum cans, then talk to your local school district about collecting the spare containers. Most schools don’t have a program in place that will have them turn in the cans so the deposit can be returned. Most high school students just dispose of the cans at school because it’s easier to do. For a large enough school, there’s the potential to make $20-$30 per day with the aluminum cans.

How To Get the Best Prices For Aluminum Cans

If you live in a state that offers a required deposit, then your prices are set. You’ll simply need to turn in the aluminum cans based on local laws and retail outlet procedures. Make sure you don’t crush the aluminum cans if you live in a deposit state because many of the machines have barcode scanners contained within them that will validate the deposit on the can.

If you’re turning in your aluminum cans at the local scrap yard, then you can choose to crush them if you wish. Some scrap yards may prefer that the cans be crushed because this makes it much more difficult to fill the can with sand or other heavier items that will reduce their profits. Some may even refuse to take cans that haven’t been crushed. There is generally no legal requirement that forces you to do this.

To get the best prices, you’ll need to watch for changing market conditions. If prices are below $0.60 per pound on the commodities exchange, then there’s a good chance the aluminum cans will be priced at $0.30 per pound. Holding onto them until they reach $0.40 per pound or more can make the potential for profit much greater. Make sure your cans are cleaned, free of debris, and lightly checked with a magnet before turning them in to avoid sending any non-aluminum cans.

Make sure to keep your aluminum cans separated from any other aluminum scrap that you may be bringing into the scrap yard.

Common Traps To Avoid With Aluminum Cans

The primary trap that you’ll find with aluminum cans is a higher than normal premium on the product. With a $0.60 per pound market rate for general aluminum, the least you should receive for your cans is $0.30 per pound. Anything less than that is a scrap yard dealer attempting to maximize their profits at your expense.

These prices are also negotiable, which some people may not realize. If they bring in their cans and the market rate for them is $0.30 per pound, all the recycler has to do to change that dynamic is say, “So… how about I give you $0.25 per pound for these?” Once you’ve agreed to the lower price, you’ve created a verbal contract that can be enforced. A response to a question like that would be, “So… how about you give me $0.45 per pound for these?”

Always get your offer in writing if you aren’t receiving an immediate check for your aluminum cans. Because aluminum prices can change every day, without a written offer on a delayed payment, the scrap dealer can wait for 7-10 business days to pay you for your cans and take the lowest price out of those days. This may not be a legal action to take, but not everyone realizes this.

You can also turn in aluminum cans for scrap in states with a deposit, but you’ll typically make more money from the deposit return than sending them in for scrap.

How Much Could You Make From Your Aluminum Cans?

Aluminum cans are something that almost all of us use in some way every day. Instead of throwing them out in your city’s blue recycling bin, consider storing them to take to a local scrap metal yard or recycler. You could wind up with a few extra bucks every month from the effort. Although it isn’t money that will change your life, it will generally be enough to purchase a cup of coffee or two without impacting your budget and that can be just as nice.

Recycle Cans Easier with These Products

ImageProduct NameDetails
"The Crusher" Aluminum Can CompactorEasily crush your cans for recycling
EcoSense Blue 19 Gallon Recycling Tub with Rope HandlesStore your aluminum cans for recycling
Green Zone CanPactorAll in one can crusher & storage bin

Run a Scrap Yard? Advertise Here!

Contact Us for Details