Million Cans Recycling Contest

By Scrap University Kids & Can Manufacturers Institute

Learn how rewarding recycling can be!


Contact:  Tim Ebner, CMI’s director of communications

Email: [email protected]

More than 1.3 Million Used Aluminum Beverage Cans Collected in Can Manufacturers Institute and Scrap University Kids Elementary School Recycling Contest
‘Million Cans Recycling Contest’ Exceeds Expectations

WASHINGTON — May 23, 2024 — Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI) and Scrap University Kids today announced that more than 1.3 million empty aluminum beverage cans were collected during the first Million Cans Recycling Contest.

This student-focused competition, which ran from October 15, 2023, to May 16, 2024, challenged second- and third-grade students to see which school could recycle the most used aluminum beverage cans. Collectively, eight schools from Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas collected more than 1.3 million cans.

Schools were selected in communities where there are low recycling rates and no curbside recycling systems. This ensures the cans the schools collected likely would have not have otherwise been recycled. Further, it proves this can-only model, leveraging the relatively high market value of used beverage cans, works where no or limited recycling exists.

“The Million Cans Recycling Contest surpassed its one-million-mark goal thanks to the efforts of students, teachers and parents at the participating elementary schools, as well as the support of each CMI aluminum beverage can sector member that was partnered with a participating school nearby one of its facilities,” said Scott Breen, CMI’s senior vice president of sustainability. “The Million Cans Recycling Contest demonstrates there is an effective way to actively engage young learners on recycling in a hands-on way while delivering valuable funding for their school.”

Schools that competed earned this valuable funding from selling the used beverage cans to local scrap yards. The money can be used to support various educational activities and partnerships, further enriching the learning experience for students.

The contest successfully diverted more than a million empty aluminum beverage cans away from landfills. Recycling these cans saves energy equivalent to what it takes to power a U.S. home for almost 60 years. The metal from these used beverage cans once sold also is worth nearly $21,000 in value.

Additionally, CMI provided more than $12,000 in funding that schools received if they met certain challenges or targets during the competition. For example, the top-three schools received grand prizes for collecting the most cans per student participating: 

What: A fun contest to see which school can recycle the most aluminum cans!
Who: 2nd or 3rd graders at 8 schools across the USA are competing against each other to see who can recycle the most cans per student.
When: From October 15, 2023 to May 16th 2024
Where: Schools near seven can making companies in Alabama, Indiana,
Kentucky, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Carolina & Texas.
Why: Did you know only 45% of cans get recycled in the USA? We need your help
to make a difference! Let’s join forces to recycle one million cans!

Students get FREE copies of book The Girl Who Recycled 1 Million Cans
● $10,000 in books and prizes will be awarded!
● Teach students about the importance of recycling!
● Help your school, community, and the planet, while having fun!
● Earn money for your school for all the cans you collect! Aluminum is paid for
by the pound! (35 cans in one pound) The more cans you collect the more money you get!
Can your school win?

Grand prizes based on number of students who got the books divided by the number of cans each school recycles:

Current aluminum cans recycling rates: 50 States of Recycling

Leaderboard: May 22, 2024 Final Totals! Great job everyone!! We did it!!!

Cans per student:

Total cans recycled by school: ♻️🥫🏫🚸🤩

We 💖 Our Readers and Recyclers! ♻️🥫🦄📚

The Million Cans Recycling Contest made the news!

🥳📺📰🥫♻️🦄 #millioncans