Schools Recycle More than 2.3 Million Cans, Raise More than $34,000 in National Competition

Schools across America recycled more than 2.3 million aluminum beverage cans through a new national recycling competition sponsored by the can industry. The recycled cans, totaling more than 68,000 pounds, generated more than $34,000 for school activities and other uses.

The schools competed in the Great American Can Roundup – School Challenge, a national competition sponsored by the Can Manufacturers Institute, the trade association representing can makers and their suppliers. Competing schools were rated on a per capita basis, comparing the pounds of cans recycled to the number of students participating. 

With a recycling rate of 29.21 pounds (approximately 1,000 cans) per student – more than double the per capita rate of any other school – Expedition Academy in Green River, Wyo., was the national winner. Spalding Academy in Spalding, Neb., and Cascade High School in Cascade, Mont., had the second and third highest per capita recycling totals, respectively. CMI awarded $1,000 to the top recycling school in each state and an additional $5,000 to the top school nationally, Expedition Academy, for a total payout of $36,000. Combined with the recycling proceeds, the 108 schools collectively earned over $70,000. 

“I congratulate Expedition Academy for their impressive showing and for setting such a strong example of the importance – and value – of recycling used cans,” said Robert Budway, president of CMI.  “I also congratulate every other school and every student who took part in this national challenge. Every school should feel like a winner, given that they collectively raised more than $34,000 in recycling proceeds – an impressive sum of money that will go a long way toward supporting a variety of school events and activities.”

The 2010-2011 GACR School Challenge marked the first year of an annual event that begins on America Recycles Day, November 15, and ends on Earth Day, April 22.  A total of 108 schools from 30 states, representing over 56,000 students, competed in the contest. CMI has set a goal of quadrupling the number of schools participating in the 2011-2012 challenge; schools interested in competing may now register at

Cans are the most valuable package to recycle, with American consumers earning more than $1 billion annually in recycling proceeds.  It therefore is not surprising that cans are also the most recycled beverage container in the world – and by far – with a U.S. recycling rate of 57.4 percent. 

The can’s significant value stems from its unique characteristic of being 100% recyclable back into the original package.  Once placed in a recycling bin, a can could be back on a store shelf in as few as 60 days.  This closed-loop recycling process has kept millions of tons of material out of landfills.  Indeed, 75% of all aluminum ever produced is still in use. 

“Metal, essentially, is a permanent resource,” Budway said.  “Chances are, the metal in the soda can you’re holding now was previously used by your grandparent’s generation and will likely be used by your grandchildren’s generation.  A permanent material meeting the needs of yesterday, today and tomorrow, while minimizing landfill waste and resource depletion – what can be more sustainable than that?”

The infinite recyclability of cans also makes them an energy efficient package.  A can made from a recycled can requires 95 percent less energy to produce and therefore has a 95 percent lower carbon footprint than one produced from raw material.  Just one recycled can saves enough energy to run a load of laundry, and the energy saved from all cans recycled annually could power the entire city of Washington, DC, for nearly four years.

“Cans, quite simply, are the premier sustainable solution,” Budway said.  “By using cans, we are essentially using the same resource over and over, thereby reducing the need for both landfill space and new raw materials.  That is the essence of sustainability.”