The tips and tactics below will help you get the most out of your recycling campaign and win the Great American Can Roundup School Challenge.

For additional suggestions, try contacting recycling/environmental organizations.

List of Organizations

How To…

Get Free Recycling Bins or Bags

  • The Coca-Cola Foundation’s Keep America Beautiful (KAB) Bin Grant Program offers two recycling bin grants. The first is for bin grants for public space recycling and the second is for collegiate bin grants. Visit bingrant.org to apply.
  • Ask your local warehouse club retailer if they might provide a discount on or donate clear 39-55-gallon drum liners for your campaign.
  • Speak to your local recycling coordinator or state recycling association or KAB Affiliates regarding possible loaner recycling bins, plastic bags or other bin-grant opportunities.

Get Your Cans Ready to Redeem

Most recycling centers will deduct ten percent from the purchase price for dirty or wet containers, so make sure they are clean and dry.

  • Rinse and empty the cans.
  • Keep the pull-tabs on! Your cans will weigh more, so you’ll earn more.
  • Crush the cans by stepping on them (to save space), unless you live in a deposit state (CA, CT, Guam, HI, IA, ME, MA, MI, NY, OR or VT).
  • Store in plastic trash bags in a secure place—indoors if possible.

Not sure a can is aluminum? Try placing a magnet on it. Magnets won’t stick to aluminum.

Sell Your Cans

You can get a list of buy-back centers or scrap dealers in your area at search.earth911.com. Search for “aluminum beverage cans” near your zip code or town.

Build Community Awareness

Building interest in recycling and in your campaign is the key! Round up your school’s best artists, writers and public speakers and ask them to:

  • Create barometer posters to show the community how far the school is from its recycling goal.
  • Build a giant sign with the word “RECYCLING” spelled out in aluminum beverage cans.
  • Make a float or display for an upcoming parade, fair or carnival.
  • Teach the value of recycling. (You can download relevant curricula from cancentral.com.)

For more tips on how to build community awareness about your roundup and recycling in general, go to Promote Your Roundup.

Did You Know?
Recycling 1 aluminum can saves enough energy to run a TV for 3 hours!

Tactics to Try

  • Gather a group to collect cans in public areas such as parks and playgrounds, along creeks and streams, around shopping centers, stadiums, construction sites, etc.
  • Allow students to earn community service-learning hours for participating.


Ask local merchants to place a box or bag near snack bars or vending machines, with a sign reading “Please Recycle Your Aluminum Cans Here.” Include your group’s name, your goal and your leader’s name and telephone number. Be sure to delegate the task of retrieving cans from these bins on a regular basis.

Collect cans from parade watchers and/or ask parade organizers if you can set up recycling bins along parade route.

  • March in the parade with recycling bags to collect cans along the way.
  • Drive a float/pickup truck in the parade to promote beverage can recycling awareness and collect cans.
  • Ask vendors along the route to offer recycling bins and/or display signs about your can roundup during the parade.


Hold a “Car Wash for Cans” event in your school’s parking lot (or any high-traffic location with access to water spigots).

  • Offer free car washes in exchange for 100 cans (or a specified weight).
  • Pro-rate prices for smaller donations.


Collect cans as fans arrive for a big game and/or during the game.

  • Promote your recycling campaign ahead of time so fans arrive with empty cans.
  • Decorate a pickup truck with your school colors, park it near the parking lot entrance and collect cans in the truck bed.
  • Make it a contest between your school and your rival, and compete to fill your truck first!

OR

Partner with local professional sports teams.

  • Set up collection bins at your local stadium/arena.
  • Ask the team owners to provide free tickets, photos of athletes or team gear for fans who bring X number/pounds of cans for recycling on a special day.


Challenge other schools or challenge local businesses to collect more cans than your school! For business challenges, contact your local Chamber of Commerce or service organizations, which often support this type of environmental outreach.

This is a great way to raise community awareness and earn funds for a special project. Check with local retailers, the parks and recreation department, or organizers of local events such as art fairs, carnivals and parades to host a mountain-building event.

  • Set a specific goal such as 10,000 or even 100,000 cans. (The Boy and Girl Scouts of Alexandria, Virginia, filled two tractor trailers and earned $1,000 from their mountain of 100,000 cans!)
  • Find a highly visible, accessible location for the mountain. Parking lots are best.
  • Create a barometer poster to show the community how far the school is from its recycling goal.
  • Rally people to your cause by clearly communicating how you will use the proceeds from the collection.
  • Ask your local recycling center if they will help you transport the cans (e.g., by providing a tractor trailer).


Some schools build enthusiasm for their can roundup by rewarding recyclers with tokens/tickets to be used at the school’s annual carnival.

  • Allow tokens to be used in lieu of cash for games and food at the carnival.
  • Designate certain games for recycling tokens only, making a winner at those booths extra special.
  • Provide a chance for students to earn tokens on their way in.
  • Build a mountain of cans at the carnival.

  • Engage older students (middle or high school) and allow them to earn service learning hours by helping elementary students initiate and promote a Roundup.
  • Arrange for youth to make presentations about recycling at homes for the elderly or local mens’ or womens’ clubs and set up a collection bin at these places.


Competition is keen when school classes challenge each other to see which class can recycle the most aluminum beverage cans in a week. The winning class receives ten percent of the other classes’ proceeds.

  • Place class collection bins in an easily accessible area.
  • Make barometer posters to place by each bin so daily tallies can be compared.
  • Encourage teachers and staff to recycle for their favorite class.