Cans For College

In 1998, 102 BILLION aluminum cans were produced in the United States.  Looking at the US Census records for that year it works out to 369 cans for every man, woman, and child in the country.  I'm sure I coud find more recent statistics if I took the time, but the exact figure is not really all that important.  What is important is what can be done with those cans.

In Florida, there is no can and bottle deposit as in a few other states.  They are a single use item which all too often end up in the local landfill.  There are recycling programs and recycle centers where you can bring in your own cans to sell for cash.  Currently a pound of aluminum cans will fetch around 70¢.  There are 33 standard size, 12 oz cans to a pound.  To keep the arithmetic simple, each can is worth 2¢.  An organized group of people would do well to gather those cans and put them to good use.

Looking at the statistics, the average family size in Florida is 3 people.  Each person would go through 369 cans per year, about 1000 cans per family per year.  These cans could be taken to the recyling center, but to get the volume which makes the job cost effective, the family would need to store the cans in an out of the way place until there is enough to pay for the gas to haul the cans and leave some left to spend on something important...such as soda.  In low volume it's just not worth the hassle.

A cooperative enterprise with a couple hundred families involved would do well to begin a can collection program.  At home each family need only store their empty cans in small quantities, bringing them along when they come in to purchase items, contribute their effort, or engage in social functions.  Those 200 families with 1000 cans per year can assemble a considerable value in a short time.   200,000 cans per year at 2¢ each amounts to $4000.  

$4000 may not seem like a big deal when compared to the business volume of the co-op, but in the right context the value becomes apparent.  Rather than use the money to pay the light bill or some lumber for shelving, put it towards a scholarship program.  $4000 will cover a year of tuition and books at the local community college.

Cans are a waste product.  We throw them away.  We are turning our trash into a chance at a better future for the youth in our community.  This moves from a scrap recovery operation into the realm of community involvement.  We've got hundreds of people involved in the co-op who can spread the word and urge others to stop in with their cans.  The waste stream is reduced, the metals are recycled, the local high school seniors receive the advantage of a even larger scholarship program, and the co-op gains positive exposure within the community.


Cooperative Enterprise, Plan Outline