“Cans for Pets” Collects Over 100,000 Cans For 5 Cent Donation

aluminum cans
Clean aluminum cans for donation

In November 2012 the Cans for Pets began with a goal to collect 20,000 pet food cans to be recycled by January 2014 with the Alcoa Foundation donating five cents per can to the Animal Rescue League. In two months, by January 2013, they had already collected 6,500 cans for a donation of $325. By January 2014 they had collected over 100,000 cans and added another city as part of the program.

“To date we have recycled well over 100,000 cans and we have donated $4,500 to two champion animal shelters (Animal Rescue League and the Vanderburgh Human Society). And we are in the process of expanding the program to Knoxville, TN in the coming months,” said Melanie Pfeiffenberger, program coordinator at the Pennsylvania Resources Council. “We have collected over 94,000 cans here in Pittsburgh and have donated  $4,306.40 to the ARL.”

pallet of pet food
6,500 donated aluminum cans purchases 450 cans of food for animals in the shelter.

The Cans for Pets Program was founded November 1, 2012, a partnership among the PRC who collects the cans and the Alcoa Foundation which donates five cents for each aluminum can collected to the ARL. The amount of the checks has increased each time cans were counted. By summer 2013 recycled cans had numbered over 55,000 total and the ARL received a second quarter check for $1,153, an amount which would spay/neuter, vaccinate and flea treat 21 cats according to the ARL.

And since the busiest time of the year for shelters is fast approaching, simply collecting and recycling your cans can help immensely.

Another way to put the totals in perspective is the comparison that the first donation of $325 would provide funding for the shelter to purchase more than 450 cans of pet food, and at that check presentation a cart was stacked with 450 cans of pet food so people could see just how much those donated cans represented in actual food for the animals in the shelter, in the photo at left.

Think of all the cat food cans you’ve opened in your history of feeding cats. Imagine if recycling each can generated a five-cent donation to an animal shelter. Would you peel off the label, rinse out the can and toss it into a container to take it to the shelter so they could cash it in?

The numbers add up quickly—I feed the Five a raw diet but occasionally feed them grain-free canned for variety so I generally don’t have many cans at all. When I took in Lakota and Emeraude last June I fed them canned food consistently and suddenly had boxes and bags of cans from just two cats. When I separated out the aluminum cans in August 2013 I had over 100 in eight weeks. My community recycles these materials, but even the $5.00 donation those cans would generate helps the shelter and helps animals, so off they went.

In the subsequent months from Emeraude alone and a few cans here and there from the Five I now have almost 500 cans.

Cans for Pets, and why recycling aluminum is important

“Recycled cans for recycled pets!” the ARL announced at the beginning, and it’s still a great idea.

The Alcoa Foundation launched the “Cans for Pets” campaign in partnership with the Pennsylvania Resources Council (PRC) as a two-year effort to raise awareness while increasing the total number of aluminum pet food cans recycled each year.  According to an industry survey, the recycling rates for aluminum pet food cans is significantly less than that of aluminum beverage cans:  a 20% rate for pet food cans vs. 65% rate for beverage cans.

Recycling any material is a great thing to do for a number of reasons, but recycling aluminum is especially good. Unlike many other materials that are commonly recycled such as paper, plastic and other metals, aluminum can be recycled an infinite number of times without degrading or “downcycling”.

“Seventy-five percent of all aluminum produced since 1888 is still in use today,” said Kevin G. Lowery, Director of Corporate Communications at Alcoa, Inc. “It takes 95% less energy and emissions to recycle aluminum than it does to mine bauxite and manufacture new aluminum.” So recycling eliminates mining, transportation of raw materials and the processes of turning bauxite ore and other minerals into new aluminum which requires a large amount of electricity.

As an example of what that 95% energy savings represents, the energy saved from recycling one pound of aluminum could power an average home for four days, and recycling one 3 oz. aluminum pet food can saves enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for over 2 hours.

. . . . . . .

• Aluminum can be recycled an infinite number of times without degrading or “downcycling”.

• It takes 95% less energy and emissions to recycle aluminum than it does to mine bauxite and manufacture new aluminum.

• Recycling one 3 oz. aluminum pet food can saves enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for over 2 hours.

• An aluminum pet food can that someone recycles today can be made into a new pet food can and be back on store shelves in as little as 60 days.

. . . . . . .

Where a material like the plastic in water bottles is down-cycled into a non-food-grade item like carpet backing or plastic replacements for wood and metals in industrial and household items, “There’s no limit to how many times an aluminum pet food can may be recycled, which means that an aluminum pet food can that someone recycles today can be made into a new pet food can and be back on store shelves in as little as 60 days,” Lowery explained.

“We don’t want to see a single ounce of aluminum go into a landfill,” Lowery said. Asked why Alcoa would promote the recycling of aluminum rather than the manufacture of new material from a profit standpoint, he said, “Alcoa is the largest recycler of aluminum in the world.”

“Cans for Pets is a simple concept, but it’s definitely a win-win for everyone involved,” according to PRC Regional Director Dave Mazza. “Pets get to enjoy their favorite meals, pet lovers get a chance to keep empty aluminum pet food cans out of local landfills, and the Animal Rescue League Shelter & Wildlife Center receives 5 cents for every aluminum pet food can collected as part of this project.”

Determining if your can is aluminum and preparing it for donation
bags of pet food cans
Bags of cans collected by PRC; I would guess each bag holds at least 100 cans if not more. (Courtesy PRC)

Many pet food manufacturers and independent packagers use both aluminum and steel cans. I’ve seen popular brands such as Fancy Feast, Friskies and 9 Lives packaged in either metal, but more often than not the cans are aluminum, especially the smaller cans ranging from three to four ounces. The larger cans ranging from five to six ounces seem to be slightly more aluminum than steel, and most of the largest cans holding 13 to 15 ounces seem to be steel.

Sometimes you can tell an aluminum can from a steel can just by handling them; aluminum is lighter in weight, thinner and more flexible than steel, and often lighter in color as well, appearing more silver than the darker gray of other metals. But if you can’t figure out if your can is aluminum or not by handling it, use a magnet—even a refrigerator magnet will work. If the can isn’t attracted to the magnet, it’s aluminum, and if the can is attracted to the magnet it’s likely steel and you may also see the “Steel Recycles” logo on the can’s label.

. . . . . . .

Use a magnet to determine if you can is aluminum.

. . . . . . .

And “the can” includes the lid, whether it’s opened with a pull-tab or a can opener. The paper or plastic label should be removed from the can, and both the can and the lid should be rinsed so that no food residue is left. This can be difficult because the lid itself as well as the rim of the can often have sharp edges, but rinsing the can briefly as soon as the food is removed often cleans most of the residue, and soaking in warm water for a few minutes can help to remove the rest, using a thick rag or small sponge to get the last of it and protect your fingers.

“Cleaning the can is important to whether or not this program will succeed,” Lowery added.

Aluminum cans are coated inside during can manufacturing to keep the metal from oxidizing and reacting with the can’s contents. This coating has most often been Bisphenol A (BPA) which has been found to have some serious effects on health, but many manufacturers are turning to other resins which don’t have the health effects of BPA. The only packaging material which has virtually no reaction with its contents is glass, but glass is fragile leading to a lot of waste, and it’s heavy, much more expensive and energy-intensive to ship.

If you’re uncertain about your can’s composition, just add it to your regular recycling bin if your community already recycles metal cans. If you make a mistake and toss in a steel can, the can will still be recycled—everything that can be recycled is recycled—but won’t count toward the shelter donation.

cans for pets
Cans for Pets logo, courtesy PRC

And one donor didn’t have any empty cans to donate but wanted to help. “She offered us a case of Friskies in aluminum cans so we could add them to the donation bin when they were empty,” Rossi said. Rest assured the shelter staff and volunteers are diligently rinsing all the aluminum cans from feeding animals and adding them to the bin.

“The Cans for Pets program is a great motivator for citizens and businesses to get involved in an effort that will help thousands of animals and enrich the lives of new adopting families,” Rossi said.

Alcoa instituted Cans for Pets in Pittsburgh because this is where the company was founded and still has its headquarters. The Alcoa Foundation regularly works with organizations and businesses in the Pittsburgh area with innovative environmental and philanthropic programs to benefit residents, neighborhoods, schools and businesses.

“We can always find partners here for our projects,” Lowery said. “Without those partners in community and business, our projects would never succeed.”

In order to continue encouraging pet owners to recycle their pet food cans they’ll be taking this program to two other cities in 2013, and they’re hoping to find the same level of partnership from those cities as they have in Pittsburgh.

Where to take your cans

Individuals can drop off empty pet food cans during regular business hours at the following locations, and visit their website for maps to each place:

animal rescue league pittsburgh
The Animal Rescue League’s main shelter on Hamilton Avenue

6620 Hamilton Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15206
Hours: Sat., Sun., Mon: 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Tues-Fri: 8:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
(412) 345-7300

6000 Verona Road, Verona, PA 15147
Hours: Daily 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
(412) 345-7300 x500

2858 Banksville Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15216
Hours: Mon.-Fri: 6:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Sat. & Sun: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
(412) 364-7867

64 S. 14th Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15203 (South Side off Carson St)
Hours: Mon-Fri: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m
(412) 488-7490 ext. 105

If you’re stopping at the PRC offices on the South Side, you can also drop off up to five CFL (compact fluorescent) light bulbs and used cell phones for recycling.

To learn more about Cans for Pets, made possible through the generous support of the Alcoa Foundation, visit www.prc.org or call Melanie at the Pennsylvania Resources Council at 412-488-7490 x105 or email to melaniep@prc.org. You can also find Cans for Pets on Facebook.

. . . . . . .

THE PENNSYLVANIA RESOURCES COUNCIL, established in 1939, is one of the Commonwealth’s oldest citizen action environmental organizations. Recognized as a state and national leader in waste reduction and recycling, the remainder of PRC’s work focuses on litter and visual blight prevention, watershed awareness, and composting. The strength of PRC’s programs is derived from its continuing efforts to bring people, businesses, and government together to prevent and solve environmental problems.  For more information, visit www.prc.org.

ALCOA FOUNDATION is one of the largest corporate foundations in the U.S., with assets of approximately US$446 million. Founded 60 years ago, Alcoa Foundation has invested more than US$570 million since 1952. In 2012, Alcoa Foundation contributed more than US$21 million to nonprofit organizations throughout the world, building innovative partnerships, engaging its people to improve the environment and educating tomorrow’s leaders. The work of Alcoa Foundation is further enhanced by Alcoa’s thousands of employee volunteers who share their energy, passion and purpose to make a difference in the communities where Alcoa operates. Through the company’s signature Month of Service program, in 2012, a record 60 percent of Alcoa employees took part in more than 1,050 events across 24 countries, reaching 36,000 children, serving 13,000 meals, recycling 265,000 aluminum cans, and supporting 2,050 nonprofit organizations. For more information, visit www.alcoafoundation.com.

THE ANIMAL RESCUE LEAGUE OF WESTERN PA’s mission isto provide temporary shelter, food, medical attention, and comfort to all abandoned, neglected and injured animals brought to us by the community; to restore lost animals to their owners or seek new homes for them; and to educate the public about the humane care of animals with a goal of reducing overpopulation.  For more information, visit www.animalrescue.org.

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One thought on ““Cans for Pets” Collects Over 100,000 Cans For 5 Cent Donation

  • March 1, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    How cool. We always wash out our cat food cans and recycle them along with any human cans. I wish we could have a program like that here.


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