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Environment & Energy

Meet Pittsburgh's Can-Crushing Kids

Andy Kubis
The Allegheny Front
Siblings Teagan and Leo Ellsworth have been collecting — and crushing — cans in their Pittsburgh neighborhood since the pandemic began.

Pandemic boredom, a love of the environment, and a little encouragement from mom led a brother and sister team in Pittsburgh to start an aluminum can recycling business. They provide contactless, weekly front door service.

If their neighbors have aluminum cans, these kids will recycle them – even if they’ve been sitting around long enough to attract slugs.

To date, Teagan and Leo Ellsworth — ages 9 and 7 — have collected over 300 pounds of cans and taken them to Warhola Scrap Metal on Pittsburgh’s Northside for recycling.

That has earned them a grand total of $130 dollars, matched by mom and dad. Teagen says they are mostly saving the money for college — but they do sometimes buy candy and snacks with their earnings.

The siblings are not currently taking new customers. They have more cans than they can crush right now. But they do have some tips for anyone interested in starting their own can-crushing business:

Can Crusher Tips

  1. Make a flyer.
  2. Distribute it to your neighbors.
  3. Offer weekly, contactless pickup.
  4. Invest in a can-crushing tool (but you can start with your foot until you make enough money to buy the tool).
  5. Find a place outside where you can keep your bins of cans until it’s time to take them to the recycling center (about once a month).
  6. Warhola Metal Recycling in the Strip District pays about a 1/2 a penny a can. It adds up!
  7. Keep a logbook of how much you collect and how much you earn.
  8. Feel good about helping the environment!
Courtesy Janeen Ellsworth
The Can Crushers drop off their collection to Warhola Recycling once a month or so.