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How Much are Aluminum Cans Worth? [Ultimate Guide 2020]

If you need to know what you’re aluminum cans are worth, then you’re in the right place. No matter how you get your cans, you need to know the value, or you might get ripped off when turning them in. Before we begin, which “can personality” are you most like?

  • The Sports Household: You have a house full of people that love drinking canned beverages.
  • The Entrepreneur: You run a business or other operation where you have access to a lot of cans.
  • The Don: You know people. Those people have cans. Those people give you the cans. No more questions.
  • The Finder: Cans don’t come to you, you go to the cans.

I’m definitely the “Sports Household.” We drink a lot of canned beverages in this house.

No matter how you get your cans, we have the answer for you, but before you know how much they’re worth, you need to ask yourself the most important question:

Do you want the best price, or the quickest money?

Why is that question so important?

Because: depending on how many cans you have and the efforts you’re willing to go through, you can get anywhere from a few pennies to hundreds or thousands of dollars.

You have aluminum cans and you want money. You’re in luck, because metal is always worth money.

Now, let’s get to the good stuff.

Photo of the top portion of an aluminum can with the text "how much are aluminum cans worth?" super-imposed over the image.

Aluminum Melt/Scrap Value

As of this writing, aluminum is about 81 cents per pound. Here is an up to date chart that will tell you the current price of aluminum cans when you’re reading this article:

Current Aluminum Price Chart (Updated Every Market Day)

Current Aluminum Can Prices

A quick and dirty way of estimating the current price of aluminum cans is to use the chart above and multiply it by some rough percentages of what recycling centers pay.

Based on my research, recycling centers often pay around 25% to 35% on the low end, and 50% at best.

What that means: if the price of aluminium is 81 cents, then you can estimate that your cans are worth around 25% to 50% of that price. That would be:

At 25% of Spot Price

81 x .25 = 20.25

A pound of aluminum cans would be valued at about 20 cents.

At 50% of Spot Price

81 x .50 = 40.5

A pound of aluminum cans would be worth about 40 to 41 cents.

Why is Aluminum So Cheap?

Due to the light weight and smaller price tag, it does not move as much as the other, more expensive metals. In fact, when compared with copper, lead, nickel, tin and zinc, it is the least expensive metal per pound. This is generally because it is also the most prevalent.

As you can find aluminum in all of your cans, you are able to quickly and easily find aluminum just about anywhere. So, in order to receive much money for the aluminum can, you need to have a large amount. When trading in aluminum, feel free to crush the cans ahead of time to save space.

What is the Average Price for Aluminum Per Pound

Because the price of aluminum fluctuates so much, it’s helpful to know what a historical average is to make things easier. Over the last 30 years, the average price of aluminum has been about 81 cents per pound. The data I used came from United States Geological Survey (USGS.gov).

How many aluminum cans are there in a pound?

The average aluminum can weighs about 14-15 grams. There are roughly 454 grams in a pound.Using those numbers, it takes around 31 to 33 cans to make a full pound.

How many aluminum cans make up a kilogram?

Since there are 1,000 grams in a kilogram, and each can is about 14-15 grams, that means it takes about 67 – 72 cans to make a kilogram.

Aluminum Can Price Formula

Now, there is a mathematical way to roughly determine around how much you are able to receive for your cans. With an average can weighing about 14-15 grams or .03 pounds, an average aluminum can has a value of about 2.4 cents at 81 cents a pound. Here is how that math works in case you want to use the price in the chart above:

Formula for price of aluminum cans:

(# of cans) x .03 x (price in chart above, 81 cents would be .81)

Disappointing, I know. You need quite a few of these to take your spouse out to dinner.

A single aluminum, 12 ounce can weights around half an ounce. This means, if you have a 12 pack of cans, it is going to weight about 6 ounces in aluminum. This is only about 4/10 of a pound, or in other words you are going to receive just over $0.29 for the 12 pack at 81 cents/pound.

So, when you have all of this in mind, it shows you that you really need to start collecting hundreds, if not thousands of cans in order to obtain anything truly valuable (100 cans is going to net you around $2.43 at 81 cents per pound).

BUT! You won’t get paid the current market rate for aluminum. So, these are just hypothetical prices. Let’s get into some real-world pricing. How much money can you actually expect to be paid for your aluminum empties?

Where to Recycle Aluminum Cans for Money

If you’ve gone through the trouble of collecting your cans, then chances are you want to turn those cans in to get your money. The most common places to return cans are:

  • Scrap Yards & Recycling Centers
  • Bottle Deposits
  • eBay / Etsy

We’ll discuss these in a bit more detail below. Be sure to keep reading for some of my more creative ideas on getting the most money for your aluminum cans.

What Do Scrap Yards and Recycling Centers Pay for Aluminum Cans?

First, it is important for you to understand that the price of aluminum does fluctuate. This means every single day the price is changing. It’s a bit like the stock market. There are some metals that vary more significantly, such as copper, nickel and tin. These are three of the most valuable light, everyday, non-ferrous metals.

On top of the fluctuating prices, you need to realize that when you take the aluminum in, you are not going to receive the same price it is listed at on the chart above. The recycling center will have a buy and a sell price listed.

This means the recycling center will pay you less than the current value of aluminum, and charge you more for aluminum than it is worth. This simply is because the scrap yard needs to make money on the transaction, and this is not possible if it offers the same price as what aluminum is trading at.

As of this writing, the price of Aluminum is about 81 cents per pound. Below are some examples of what you can expect in some states for recycling your empties.

Aluminum Can Recycling Prices

I did some research to get you some real-world pricing information. No, I didn’t just Google prices! I also called a bunch of places for you to get a better idea of what places are paying.

As of this writing, Aluminum is trading for about 81 cents per pound. The prices that you see below are just examples of what you might expect, with the market changing constantly, please don’t try to hold these businesses to the quotes. These estimates are just to give you an idea of how much you can roughly expect. At best, you can expect to get around 50% of the current market price.

Aluminum Cans Price Per Pound in Arizona

Over in Phoenix, E-Z Money Recycling is paying 75 cents per pound for aluminum cans with CRV and 20 cents per pound without the CRV. While Tempe, Arizona based I-Buy-Scrap is currently paying 60 cents per pound.

Aluminum Cans Price Per Pound in California

California is special in that they have the California Redemption Value of 5 cents per can under 24 fluid ounces. See the “Bottle Deposits” section below for more states with a “bottle bill.”

Aluminum Cans Price Per Pound in Ohio

Ohio Computer Recycling quotes a price of 40 cents per pound. I called up Berea Metals in Brook Park, Ohio and they quoted 35 cents per pound. I called CycleMET over in Columbus, Ohio and they quoted 38 cents per pound and 40 cents per pound if you have over 100 pounds.

Aluminum Cans Price Per Pound in Texas

I did a little research and locates some places in Texas that listed their prices. CMC Recycling in Dallas/Ft. Worth Texas is currently paying 40 cents per pound for your aluminum cans. That’s about half the current going rate.

Aluminum Cans Price Per Pound in Wisconsin

I called up ARR in Waukesha, Wisconsin and they quoted 40 cents per pound. I called up Stateline Recycling in Janesville, Wisconsin and the gentleman there quoted 25 cents per pound and 30 cents per pound if you have over 100 pounds.

How Do You Get the Best Price for Recycling Aluminum Cans at Recycling Centers?

Just from my research on this, here are the two most important things to know:

Lesson 1: Call Around. Prices Vary Greatly!

What struck me the most about the pricing was how much it varied even within the same state. Some recycling centers paid as much as 15 cents per pound more. Other places quoted me a flat rate that was better than some recycling centers’ bulk rates!

Lesson 2: 100 Pounds. 100 is the aluminum can magic number!

If you’re going for bulk, then 100 pounds seems to be the magic number. Any place I called that had a bulk pricing tier gave their best price for 100 pounds or more. BUT! Make sure the bulk price is worth the effort. Some places quoted a flat rate that was as good or better than other places’ bulk rates!

Bottle Deposits: They Pay the Most!

If you have an aluminum can from a soda or beer, you might wonder what exactly you should do with it. Now, if you are in one of the states with a bottle deposit, you can receive a nice sum of money for your can (compared to the melt value).

With many these states, you receive five cents for returning the can. These states also have some of the highest recycling rates in the entire country. Here is a list of them (data retrieved on 6/28/2019 from NCSL):

StatePrice for 12 oz can
California 
Connecticut 
Hawaii 
Iowa 
Maine 
Massachusetts 
Michigan10¢ 
New York 
Oregon10¢ 
Vermont 

Now, if you live in the states of Michigan or Oregon, you receive the highest payback for any sort of bottle in the country, as every single aluminum can is worth 10 cents per can return.

Just remember that if you live near a state with a deposit, it is often illegal to bring in outside cans for the higher deposits, so you cannot pull a Kramer and Newman from Seinfeld New York to Michigan aluminum can transport; as these guys found out. Make sure to check state laws.

Selling Aluminum on eBay

If you look at aluminum ingots on eBay, you can see them selling for upwards of $4.00 a pound. That’s a 570% markup as of this writing!

With a little ingenuity and time you can really increase the amount you earn from your cans. Below is a video detailing how to melt your cans down into ingots. Please bear in mind: you should consider the costs of your time, fuel to melt the cans and cost to ship them or else you may lose money. Additionally, molten metal is very dangerous and only an adult should do this and do so carefully.

Cool Things to do with Aluminum Cans

If you’re not happy with those prices, then why not do something awesome with your aluminum cans like this:

Sure, you probably didn’t expect to get into the business of manufacturing, but if you have the know-how, and the materials, then you might be able to spin some of that aluminum can “straw” into some aluminum can “gold!”

Conclusion

Recycling aluminum cans won’t make you rich, but it can certainly put good money in your pocket, especially if you have access to a steady supply of cans. In this article, I showed you some of the best ways to get the most money out of your aluminum cans.

The lower the effort, the less profitable (unless you live in a state with a Bottle Bill). With a bit more effort (and a little danger- beware!) you can unlock a lot more value out of your cans, just make sure your costs for fuel and time aren’t too expensive. If you have any other tips or ideas, make sure you let me know!