Can Crusher Keeps Track Of Your Recycling Efforts


Instructables user [MRHint] was inspired by his friends’ recycling efforts, and decided to start recycling as well. The one thing he noticed was that they typically had no idea how many cans they had stored up, nor how much their bags of cans weigh. He figured that he could somewhat automate the crushing process while keeping an accurate can count using a handful of electronics and some elbow grease.

He started by designing a can crushing rig that would use an old windshield wiper motor he had sitting around the house. The motor is connected to a pulley, which drives a set of threaded rods connected to his movable crushing panel. When the motor is started, the panel is drawn against a stationary board, crushing the can.[MRHint] also had an unused Arduino hanging around, so he used it to control the crusher as well as keep track of how many times the crusher had been run.

From what we hear the whole setup works pretty well, but as with any project he sees plenty of room for improvement. Future changes may include a more powerful motor and a chain/sprocket setup in place of the belt and pulley he currently uses. Do you have any other suggestions for [MRHint]? Let us know in the comments.

27 thoughts on “Can Crusher Keeps Track Of Your Recycling Efforts

  1. maybe adding a digital scale with tear weight to get just the weight of the cans, and then have either a microcontroller (or arduino but thats overkill) to show on a LCD what the weight X price of aluminum recycle to get the total $ worth of alyminum you have.

    bonus points if you do use and arduino + enet shield to pull current prices of recycled aluminum and update that on the LCD

  2. Or you could just weigh a single empty soda can, then weigh your recycling bin when it’s empty, then weigh it when it’s full, subtract step 2, then divide by step 1 to get the number of cans in the bin. But, hey, why not massively over-engineer it, then stuff in a whole Arduino for good measure?

    Didn’t hacking used to connote a sort of spare elegance, rather than this kind of outright wastefulness?

  3. i’m a bit sceptical about residues from within the cans sticking to the machine and making it stink like hell after some time. since we have these reverse vending machines in northern europe ( – nice wall hack btw:-)) there’s a verry smelly and sticky area in all the supermarkets

    sucks living in northern europe – we have a container deposit on cans and bottles of up to 0.55 USD per container (!!!)
    crusehd bottles – no moneys:-(

  4. the energy required to crush a can is far less than that required to refine the same amount of new aluminum from bauxite.

    and in any case, there’s no real need to have an automatic system to crush the cans — doing it by foot takes what, five seconds? is this guy really producing more than twelve empty soda cans a minute? If you absolutely have to have a mechanical system to do it there are hand-powered crushers you can buy that kids love to operate.

  5. Also, wtf? Since when is criticism on legitimate grounds equated with trolling? It’d be trolling if I came in here and said everyone who uses an Arduino blows goats or something; it’s not trolling that I come in here and say “You know, for something built out of an ostensible concern for conservation, that seems awfully wasteful in comparison with human-powered solutions which are both widely known and well-established in practice.”

    I’m not particularly nice about how I say it, no, but that’s because I’m kind of an asshole. Being kind of an asshole doesn’t necessarily mean I’m wrong.

  6. And assholery aside, it’s the same kind of penny-wise, pound-foolish thinking that leads to foolishness like thinking wind and solar by themselves can reliably and indefinitely satisfy our species-wide energy needs.

    (Now *that’s* trolling!)

  7. I really like the idea, but hate spending time rinsing, crushing, bagging and taking cans to a recycler… sorry, it’s just not my idea of time well spent. After a thousand cans or so you start to think just not consuming this type of canned beverage is better for the environment and your body.

    For all of the people wanting this to be more “green”, how about a large sandbag weight that can be hoisted up into position by hand (use a mechanical advantage system to make it easier), that stores up enough potential energy to run a mechanism that will crush a hundred cans or so. Call it the “clock-work can crusher”.

  8. Manual Crushing = best part of recycling
    Using Electricity = Wasted Recycling Effort
    Keeping Track Of How Many Cans You Recycle = Pointless

    why is this project even exist?

  9. I suppose that’s a possibility, Brett W.

    Or you could just stomp on the damn things. The best possible optimization, after all, is to avoid building an unnecessary machine in the first place, no matter how nifty it is.

  10. @Aaron

    My friend and I once built a rube goldberg machine that incorporated custom-built and designed mechanisms, controlled by an acrylic control panel with LEDs and switches, along with a custom-designed spring tensioner and mechanical temperature sensor, powered by special-ordered batteries. In total, we spend at least 200 hours on it and around $200 spent.

    Why? Because we wanted to.

    It was for a science competition for our school, and because the rules change every year, it is now obsolete. By your point of view we should have never put so much effort into something that would be obsolete after one use.

    But I don’t know how you can “optimize” your desire to build something, by not building something.

  11. Every time I crush a can I say Muck Fishigan. There is a 10cent refund on cans in that state. During trip in a small car with others in that state north of Indiana, we crushed the cans along the way. On the way back I took the sticky stinky cans into a quick mart and they couldn’t take them. They have to be intact. They stack them into plastic garbage bags making hexagonal towers, what a joke! What of Fosters or Red Bull? What of garbage being brought into a clean store, that is a health problem! Even bags brought in can have roaches inside, yuck! These laws are stupid, the cost of handling is high. Needed are tougher littering laws. Every time there is a high wind bags blow out of our city recycling bins which have no lids. Plastics are a global menace.

  12. aEx155: Not comparable. Rube Goldberg machines are supposed to be pointless; this is a massively over-engineered solution to a problem which doesn’t exist for anyone with a kitchen scale, a decent pair of shoes, and the wit to make use of them both.

    Granted, it is a *well*-engineered solution, but it’s overdone just the same.

  13. @lolwut: Thanks, I like the enet shield idea!

    @Aaron: The whole idea is “not to outdo your foot, to save the world, or to create some sort of hack to be outright wasteful,” it was just an idea I had for a machine; a machine for fun/to make life easier for some people.
    The real recycling was the reuse of junk: the wood was left-over from when my apartment’s roof was redone, the motor was junk my dad held on to, and the arduino wasn’t being used. The idea I came to me when my buddy was saving cans for someone else he works with. I wanted it to be automatic and easy to use—you put a can in, it detects the can, it opens up, the can drops, it crushes the can, it opens up, drops the can, adds one to the count, and multiplies the count by the weight of one can.
    I don’t own a kitchen scale, nor do I need one, but I do live on the second floor–I am sure the people living downstairs from my apartment would throw a fit if every time a can was empty I started stomping on them.
    There are a lot of people in my apartments who are older and have disabilities. I would hate to hear that my grandmother fell and broke her hip because she was stomping on cans.
    This thing is not for sale, it is just made because it was asking to be made.
    The article asked for suggestions, you gave one smart-ass comment, followed by three smart-ass questions. Let me respond to them in order:
    #1) Or you could just weigh a single empty soda can, then weigh your recycling bin when it’s empty, then weigh it when it’s full, subtract step 2, then divide by step 1 to get the number of cans in the bin. The main point is not to know how many cans, but to use the number of cans to know the weight.
    #2) But, hey, why not massively over-engineer it, then stuff in a whole Arduino for good measure?
    There really isn’t such a thing as over-engineering.
    #3) And just how many amp-hours does that thing waste, anyway?
    All of them.

    You were trolling. That wasn’t productive criticism, it was a mockery of the whole idea.
    No one ever said solar and wind will be the only energy sources ever.
    No one said you were an asshole because you were not nice, people know you are an asshole because you can’t stay on topic and drop it when you have been called out on it and you criticize everyone’s posts.
    But, I do appreciate you calling it “well-engineered and overdone.”

    @Timmah: I don’t think it uses that much energy buddy; compared to how much you get from recycling/how much it costs to get the aluminum out of the ground.

    @enrico fermi: That would be cool, thanks for the idea.

    @macw: I did get the idea while visiting a buddy who was recycling for someone else, the biggest idea was of a community recycling collectively.

    @Kron: He is a troll.

    @Bret W.: I agree.

    @pff: I don’t think it is really that big of a deal, I wanted to make something. And it counts the cans to approximate the weight, not so you know how many cans you have.

    @Rick: It is more of do you have enough weight to make the trip to the recycling center cost effective, not really to tell if someone is ripping you off.

    @Byron: Good idea, thanks.

    @echodelta: Yeah, stick it to the man.

    @NateOcean: That’s a cool idea. Maybe scan them before they are crushed…

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