Last week I was taking out the recycling bin and the Island King commented on how many aluminum cans we generate. He said that he knew a man a few years ago that collected aluminum cans from the beach and over one summer he made $20k. Really? I ask him what aluminum is selling for these days and he tells me the local recycle company is paying $.53 a pound but that when the other guy was collecting they were only paying $.25 a pound. He made $20k from cans then and the price has doubled now?
“We should collect cans this summer and pay for our Key West trip in September “ the Island King tells me. What a great idea! I love the idea of our family working together and earning the money for our road trip. We talked about it a little that night and the next day when we were at the beach he was standing next to one of the trash cans and called me over. “Look at this” I looked in the can and right there on top there were at least 50 beer and soda cans. I grabbed a trash bag from the van and in under a minute I had a trash bag full of cans and I didn’t even have to pick through the trash - I just grabbed the cans on top. That’s all it took. I was hooked. When we left the beach that day we stopped at 3 other beach accesses and within 15 minutes had collected 10 bags of cans. We got home and the kids spent a
few minutes crushing the cans and it wasn’t long before we had 5 bags packed full of crushed cans. We weighed them and each bag will be worth $10. We’d made $50 in under an hour and there really wasn’t even any work involved.
We sat outside that night and talked about our new project. We were talking about fuel costs to go to each beach every day and the Island King said “We could just go up to the warehouse and get cans after the trash has been picked up”
His brother is Sandman and he owns the company that has the contract to pick up the trash from all of the beaches in our county. His employees pick up the trash and then take it to Sandman’s warehouse, which is about a mile from our house. They put it all in a huge truck and then when the truck is full they drive it to the dump. Hmm. Sounds like that might work. All of the trash is bagged and it’s not household trash so it’s sandy and a little slimy but it’s not disgusting, stinking trash like you would get from picking up household garbage.
Saturday afternoon the Island King told me to run up to the store and get 2 six packs of beer. I told him that we had beer in the fridge and he tells me that we’re going to give this beer to the trash guys and I’ll see why when we get to the warehouse. I got the beer and off we went.
Many years ago, the Island King ran the business that his brother owns now so he knows all about the beach trash. We get to the warehouse and the trash truck has about 100 bags in it. We put on our gloves, climbed up into the truck and he says “Ok, let me show you how to do this” He starts picking up bags and shaking
them. There are 2 kinds of bags. Heavy bags are considered trash and are thrown back onto the pile. Light bags rattle and you can hear all of the cans in them. They’re called “fluff” and those bags were tossed to the entrance of the truck. Once we’d picked through and tossed out all of the fluff bags we sat down in beach chairs and started opening them. It wasn’t near as gross as I’d thought it might be. We would rip open a bag and then pull all of the cans out and toss them into a different bag. I was shocked at how many cans we found in less than an hour. We filled 8 trash
bags in 45 minutes. As we finished picking through a bag we’d toss it into the back of the truck. Just as we finished picking through the bags we’d thrown out the beach truck pulled up. This is the truck that the 2 trash guys drive on the beach emptying all of the cans. They fill the truck up, bring it to the warehouse, throw all of the bags in the big truck and then go back out for more.
The Island King knows these guys pretty well and when they pulled up he told them what we were doing. Both agreed that if they weren’t already working 12 hour days they would definitely be collecting cans because there are so many but that at the end of the day they’re tired and ready to go home. The Island King gave them each a six pack of beer and asked them to toss the fluff bags on the ground for us instead of throwing them into the truck with the heavy bags. They were more than happy to oblige and 5 minutes later they pulled out and we had a huge stack of fluff
bags ready to be picked through. We were there for 2 hours and when we finished we had 22 bags of cans. These are much bigger bags than the ones we used that first day at home and even with the cans uncrushed we were able to pack about 20 pounds of cans in each bag. We weighed them and these bags will sell for $10 each too. We’d collected $220 worth of cans in 2 hours. Unbelievable! Just as we finished, the trash guys pulled up again with another load. We were tired and ready to go home but they told us not to worry about it, they would just throw the fluff bags on the ground and we could pick through them the next day. We went back Sunday afternoon and there was a mountain of fluff bags waiting on us. We picked for another 2 hours
and filled 18 bags with cans. When we finished we counted and we had 45 20 pound bags.That’s $450. I am blown away. I will say that picking through beach trash is a little gross but we turned on the radio, drank some beer and only did it for 2 hours each day. I’ve had many jobs in my life that were a LOT worse than that LOL
The Island Girl is mortified that her parents are picking through trash but we keep telling her it’s not like digging through kitchen trash and frankly if a bag smells real bad we just toss it straight into the back of the truck. This is not something I would want to do 8 hours a day 5 days a week but an hour or two in the late afternoon is not bad.
The boys went home with their grandparents Friday night and the Island Girl had a friend over to spend the weekend and they wanted to stay home and watch movies so it was just the Island King and I which was nice. We never get to just sit and talk, uninterrupted, for hours so that made the job even better.
We went back Monday evening for about 45 minutes and got 5 bags before I had to leave to pick up the boys. Just as I was leaving one of the trash guys called and had hurt his foot and needed to go home. Since that guy couldn't finish Sandman had to go and he asked the Island King if he wanted to go with him. The Island King agreed and off they went. Since it was a holiday there was 5 times the normal amount of trash and they didn't get back until after midnight last night. When he came in I asked him if he'd gotten lots more cans and he laughed and said that now he knew why the trash guys aren't collecting cans. He worked so hard just getting the trash off the beach that he didn't have time to pick cans out and that by the time he got back to the warehouse he was exhausted and sure as hell didn't want to spend another couple of hours up there picking out the cans.
This is the big truck they throw the trash bags in.
Me picking cans
A new load of trash coming in. On an average day they bring in about 5 or 6 of these truck loads. On a holiday like this past weekend they bring in 20 to 25 loads a day. This is a pile of beach chairs. A lot of tourists just leave them on the beach at the end of the day (maybe they think they'll still be there the next day) but the beach cleaners run early in the morning so any chairs that are left have to be hauled off. The chairs are aluminum and the trash guys collect them to recycle. They strip the material off and one truckload of chairs is worth about $700. I wish we had that deal instead of picking for cans but the beach guys have been doing the chairs for years and that's their bonus money.
This is the beach cleaner that one of Sandman's guys drives along the beach each morning. It's a giant rake that flips the sand up into it, filters out any trash and then drops the clean sand back onto the beach. I've always wanted to drive it but Sandman just laughs when I ask. I keep hoping that one day he'll get in a bind and have to call me - but I'm not holding my breath LOL
So there you have it. We're spending our free time picking through beach trash for cans. Island Girl keeps saying that her dad makes enough money to just pay for our trip and that we're crazy for doing this but it's the point of the matter. We're recycling, we're making extra money so no money will have to come out of our budget for our trip and I guess it's the redneck in me but I just can't stand the thought of thousands of dollars being thrown away in that dump truck. One of the trash guys told me yesterday that he'll be surprised if we make less than $10k this summer. I don't care if it is trash we're digging through - the idea of making that much money by spending an hour or two a day, a couple of afternoons a week is just too good to pass up.