Recycling Soda Cans To Purchase A New Lawn Mower – 64,000 Aluminum Cans Equal $1400

As I recently mentioned, I’ve been shopping for a new lawn mower. Well, after today’s trip to the recycling center, I have figured out a way to pay for the new mower.

I am going to collect and recycle aluminum soda cans.

Here’s the plan –


One aluminum soda can weighs .5 ounce, which means that it takes 32 aluminum cans to equal 1 pound.

Currently, 1 pound of aluminum cans can be sold to the recycling plant for $.70.

The new lawn mower that I want retails for $1400.

I need to collect and recycle 2000 pounds of aluminum cans.

At 32 cans per pound, I need to collect and recycle 64,000 aluminum cans!

While I have been planning to purchase a new lawn mower this spring, I might wait until next spring. If I give myself 365 days to collect and recycle 64,000 aluminum cans, I’ll need to pick them up at a rate of 175 cans PER DAY!

To be honest, I don’t see how in the world I’ll be able to find 175 cans, per day, every day, for a year, but I think I’ll give it a shot. We live on a dirt road and there are plenty of places to park my truck, walk for a mile or two, and pick up cans. I’ll try to do my ‘can hunting’ when I’m taking necessary trips, so as not to waste gas. And, I’ll look for places where people are simply discarding cans and see if I can haul the cans off for them. The recycling center is between our house and town, so I won’t have to go out of my way to drop off the cans.

One side note – Apparently, certain cans weigh more than others. I weighed six cans from six different companies, and the lowest weights ranged from .45 ounce to .60 ounce. Hopefully, I’ll find more of the .60 ‘ouncers’!

Edit: If you are looking for information about state bottle deposit laws – check out BottleBill.Org.

32 thoughts on “Recycling Soda Cans To Purchase A New Lawn Mower – 64,000 Aluminum Cans Equal $1400

  1. Have you figure out how long it would take to collect and recycle 2000 pounds of aluminum cans? What if you find a part time job working a few hours per week at the local Mall – I’ll bet it would take you less time and effort to get the new lawn mower.

  2. To those who might ask –
    YES! I could get a ‘job’ and make $1400 bucks – but what fun would there be in that? And, no, Georgia does not have a ‘can deposit’ that I know of.

  3. It tells you on the cans what states have what return deposit. Some states have more than others, some have none. Thankfully for me, Michigan has the highest, $.10 per can! (i’ve always wondered if its because people pollute the great lakes with them, so they make it higher so we wont do that…) I take cans back all the time, and use it as petty cash, to go out to eat, or whatever. I don’t think I’d have the patience to save it up like you are!!

    Good luck! Ask around! Sooo many people are too lazy to do anything with them. But if you live in a state that has no deposit, people might not save them to begin with, and throw them away. I know, my next door neighbors for instance, let me take their’s because they drink beer a lot outside on summer nights, and it piles up! And they do not want to be bothered with taking it back!

  4. EDIT: That is a bottle deposit actually. Its any valid glass, plastic bottle or aluminum can. So we have lots of opportunities. You COULD take a bunch and drive over a state border that has a deposit (a lot of states have $.5), which I believe IS illegal, but really who checks? I’ve brought back bottles from when I’ve visited friends in Canada, and even over the border, they don’t care.

  5. Hey, now that’s frugal! Hit up the ballfields on a Saturday afternoon, but take some spray to knock down the yellow jackets before you go dumpster diving.

  6. I bet you could get people at businesses to help with this. They’d probably be happy to dump their cans into a special bag instead of the trash. Even if you don’t end up with $1400 worth of cans, you’ll have done some nice cleanup along the roads. Living in a cleaner area has got to be worth something too 🙂

  7. Collecting cans is a great idea. Driving out of state with them to get a bigger refund is crazy, unless 1) you are very close to that state or 2) you have MILLIONS of them (for skeptics, I would advise some serious Sienfeld watching…)

    As for reaching your goals, here’s an idea: if you work in an office (or just about anywhere, really), just find an old (but clean) garbage can to take up there, put a ‘cans only’ sign on it, and let the aluminum roll in. If you find any lying around (parking lot, TOP of the garbage can, etc.) just pick them up, put them with your stash, and the cans will add up rather quickly.

    Good luck, oh, I grabbed your RSS feed too…great stuff.

  8. The price of scrap is going up daily, and is predicted to go up consistenly for a bit of time. Check it out, you might want to watch prices and put those cans aside for higher prices! Good luck.

  9. @Carol – I think I’m going to pile them up and take them in – all at once! I think that would be so cool…

  10. Hmm, that’s interesting NCN. My office provides cans of soda for the employees, but does not recycle, so I’ve been thinking of collecting the cans and taking them in. I didn’t think it would be worth it until now, but 70 cents for 32 cans isn’t too bad if I just went up there once every month or two (and added my household’s cans).

  11. I also have been considering doing this for my company: we have 100 people and currently do not recycle. I think we go through 100 cans a day probably. hmmm you might have just inspired me.

  12. One of the DJs on RadioMargaritaville was talking about a guy that fills his car up with all the discarded bottles/cans after Jimmy Buffet concerts and uses the proceeds to pay for his trip expenses and ticket!

    Very cool! Eco friendly too.

    As for the idea of a part time job, that’d increase your tax base and would kinda IMHO be self defeating. The proceeds from the cans are tax and FICA free, increasing the value by about 35% in my tax bracket.

    Keep doing the can thing – it’s good!

  13. I live in OR, 5 cent deposit. In college, this homeless guy would take a borrowed shopping cart and go up and down the path near the dorms and college kids would come running with cans for him. He usually did it sunday mornings and he would clean up… got a college near by?

  14. People do bring cans up to Michigan to get the “free” deposits on them, and the state takes it very seriously. They will prosecute. I would not recommend it.

  15. California has a 4-cent redemption value on aluminum cans. You often see the homeless with shopping carts full of cans. During college, there were always plenty of grandmas going through the dumpsters behind the frats and sororities. Personally, I just throw them in the recycle bin and hope my city is getting some good money for it.

  16. Great idea!! While a part time job sounds like a better idea, walking a few miles a day, cleaning up the neighborhood, and pocketing a few dollars is not a bad gig. This will improve your health, decrease the clutter of the area, and increase your wealth. Good luck!!

  17. I like the idea of collecting cans for a major new purchase. Altho 175 cans a day seems pretty hard unless you get others to help you.

    I make a habit of picking up cans whenever i walk; here in CT it’s a .05 deposit. I can’t believe there are states that still don’t have any deposit. Wow.

  18. We started collecting cans as well. However, you might want to just keep your eye out for other sources of alluminum as well. There’s alluminum siding, Gutters, and Baseball bats that also can rack up some heavy pounds. As a secondary recycling metal, you could consider copper. Ask some AC companies about what they do with the old coils. You don’t have to do it actively, but copper does fetch a higher price than alluminum. BTW, I also live in Ga, and would like to know what company you use to recycle.

  19. That’s a lot of daily cans! lol

    However, you’d be doing the environment good (cleaning up.recycling), getting excercise, and getting a free mower!

    Is there a shopping area in your neighborhood? You probably don’t want to dig through garbage, but I see this guy regularly in my area who hits up all the public ones (coffee shops, etc), and I often see him walking with two HUGE plastic bags full at once — that were obviously filled that day.

    You could ask your neighbors as well.

    Cheers, and Good Luck!

  20. I think this is a great idea,although I have been pondering with the idea of cleaning up the neighborhood and making a little cash from recycling aluminum to also buy a lawn mower,wow I can’t believe how expensive they have gotten in the last five years.
    Anyhow I noticed this post is nearly a year old I’d like to know if you have made any progress.
    Also don’t get discouraged it may take you a couple of years but stay steadfast,and it will come around.
    Best of luck.

  21. im moving to michigan but could use some cash for fixing up the house. we have some money but only to get strated. not nearly enough to finish the project. could collecting cans be the way to go? (my husband works but lately his job has slowed down.) 🙁 any advice would be appreciated.


  22. We have taken a slightly different approach to encourage people to recycle. We believe that there needs to be a stronger incentive for people to start recycling. And that incentive is being able to profit from recycling. So, we have created a website,, where people can make extra cash by selling and by helping to sell, domestic recyclable items like soda cans, plastic/glass bottles, etc.

  23. Well than may not be an impossible goal, depends on were you live.
    Here in San Diego I pick up cans i find on the street and our used cans at home. I make about $500 a year. The dumpster divers make about $50 a day but that their domain not mine.

  24. does michigan take cans that are from another state?…i heard that they scan them and only take cans that are from the michigan area….did i hear wrong or is that true? if a person say from ohio,indiania, illinois, took cans up to michigan,would they take them? and does the wal-mart stores in michigan have recycle machines ,that you can cash in your cans n plastic bottles??…………………can someone please help me out with this information…i would like to know the truth about it….thank you very much for your help….DANNIE…FROM TENNESSEE

  25. I pick up cans here on Fort Lauderdale Beach. I can do 100/ in 2 hrs. on an average day. I combine this with a bike ride so I get exercise as well. If I went every day I would make $514 per year here where I am paid .45/lb. I enjoy it. Fact is I find other things including cash that probably has more value than the cans.

  26. Wow that’s a lot of cans!!!!!!!!!!!!! I just started picking up cans but I was wondering if you. New how many I can pick up a day and if you knew of any recycalling places in N.C.

  27. Hey I just lost my job and was thinking of diffrent ways of making extra cash while i look for another one and yall have given me some great ideas thanks . I live in ga to and that is disapointing that we dont have deposits on cans you would think every state would have that to give a extra incentive to recycle.

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