Some people choose to throw their aluminum cans directly into the garbage, but one savvy local retiree is now sitting on a goldmine after collecting cans for several years.
According to the Arizona Daily Star, Larry Nitka, 54, is a former UPS driver who worked for the company for 28 years. About five years before he retired in 2014, Nitka started to pick up random bags of aluminum cans that he would see on his daily route.
Nitka got into the habit of picking up aluminum cans as often as he could, and the people he delivered to began leaving their cans out for him to grab. Sandi Putnam, one of Nitka’s regulars on the delivery route, could always tell who dropped off her packages based on what happened to the cans on the curb.
“If I was expecting a package, I would make sure those cans were out,” said Putnam. “If the cans were still there alongside the package, I knew it wasn’t Larry.”
About 87% of Americans have access to curbside recycling programs, and for the homeowners on Nika’s route, he was their curbside recycling program.
“People are so cool to say, ‘Hey Larry, we’ll collect cans for you,'” Nitka said. “They did it religiously.”
As the amount of cans he collected continued to grow, Nitka planned to use the cash to pay for his children’s college education. However, his collection became so massive that he eventually decided to donate some of the proceeds to local charities.
Nitka is now ready to cash in on his can collection, but he’s not sure exactly how much he will get for them. He hopes to get about $1 per pound, but most Tucson recycling businesses pay just 50 cents per pound depending on how the cans are smashed.
The low cash-in prices offered by Arizona Recycles and Can-It Recycling are commonplace in a state that has seen a dramatic drop-off in recycling over the past few years.
As The Arizona Republic reported, Arizona is far behind the rest of the country in recycling due to lack of service to apartment complexes and a decrease in state incentives for eco-friendliness.
Despite the troubles of Arizona recycling programs, Nitka remains optimistic that he can provide real support to a couple of local charities. He has said that whatever money the cans bring in will be split between the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona and Gospel Rescue Mission.
Nitka has already crushed all of the cans with a Toyota RAV4 in his driveway, and he plans on shopping around for the best price to give as much money as possible to the charities.