What is a can Crusher?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

A can crusher is a device used for crushing aluminum soda cans for easier storage in recycling bins. While most recyclers don’t require you to crush cans, if you do recycle a lot, your normal bin may fill up quickly. The crusher gives you extra space by flattening either single or multiple cans.

Can crushers make it easier to put more cans into recycling bins.
Can crushers make it easier to put more cans into recycling bins.

The first can crusher was of course the human foot. People often stomped on cans to flatten them down either for recycling or for greater space in the garbage can. This could sometimes hurt if the foot did not come down properly on the can, so entrepreneurs eagerly sought a variety of alternatives that could be used with the hand.

To this end, there are now a host of can crusher devices on the market. The simplest, usually about 10 US dollars (USD) have you crush a single can at a time, by pulling on a lever that brings weight down on the can until it is crushed nearly flat. For about 20 USD you can find devices that will flatten numerous cans at the same time. This can save time, especially if you’re crushing the can by hand.

In the age of convenience however, we could hardly escape automating the can crusher so that one merely inserts cans and presses a button to crush them. These will cost a bit more, and may defeat the environmental purpose of these devices because you have to plug them in to use them. In other words you use energy in order to recycle, which may not make a lot of sense.

You can purchase a can crusher that can be installed on a wall, making the device easier to use since it can be placed at the most convenient “crushing” level for the user. If you do have an installed device, do keep young children away from it, because children could accidentally hurt themselves by placing a hand in the crusher and deploying the lever.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


I think whoever invented the pop can crusher was very enterprising. They totally saw an opportunity and took it! Because really, having a can crusher is completely unnecessary. You could crush the can with your foot, or not at all.

However, having a can crusher is certainly convenient. So I totally admire the person who realized they could make money on this!


@KaBoom - It's funny that the article says you should keep young children away from can crushers, but you loved to use one as a kid. I did too, and I never hurt myself. However, we had an automatic can crusher, so pretty much all you had to do was put the can in, and then push a button.

We didn't drink that much soda in my house when I was growing up either, so I'm still not sure why my parents bothered to invest in a can crusher. Also, I haven't seen one of these things in years! I wonder if anyone is still using them?


I don't know if it's like this everywhere, but in my area they actually encourage people not to use an aluminum can crusher to crush cans anymore. I'm not sure why this is, but I don't drink soda anyway, so I don't have any cans to crush!

However, when I was growing up one of my friends had a can crusher at their house. They drank a lot of soda, and I usually had one when I was over there too. I really enjoyed crushing the can in the can crusher when I was done. There is just something fun about it, especially when you're a kid!


My parents were always big recyclers - even when this wasn't the green thing to do. At one point I remember having a tin can crusher and a trash compacter in our house.

These would crush the cans and other trash that was thrown away. We had a large family, so this also made a difference in how full our bin was each week.

Now that they have a separate recycling bin to pick up products like this, they just use that instead of the can crusher.

There also aren't as many kids at home so they don't have to worry about making space in the bin. The recycling center does the crushing now.


I know some people will use a soda can crusher before dropping them off at a recycling center.

I live in a state where we receive 5 cents back on every soda can we recycle, so I have never had a need for something like this.

We accumulate our soda cans in a large bag in the garage. Once the bag is full we take them to our local grocery store where we run them through a machine and then collect the cash for the recycled cans.

The recycling machine then crushes each can that is put in there. As a kid, this was always some easy spending money.

Now that all the kids are grown up, the job is up to me. It's not a fun job, but I think having the 5 cent deposit really cuts down on soda can litter around the state.


When my son was in elementary school he made an aluminum can crusher for his science fair project.

It was a simple device that did the trick and he had a lot of fun designing and building it. As I recall, his project wasn't as innovative as some of the other projects, but he did receive a good grade on his project.

I don't know what ever happened to his can crusher and don't remember that we used it much after the science fair.

If nothing else, it made him more aware of the importance of recycling aluminum cans and other types of products that can be recycled.


Perhaps the safety designs have been improved over the years, but we had an accident with one at my house growing up. My then-teenage brother was crushing cans when one of them flew out of the crusher and hit his face! It cut him right around the bridge of his nose. Obviously, it could have been much worse. He probably should have been wearing protective glasses.

An aluminum can crusher is not something that most household recyclers will need. Municipal recycling collectors do not generally require that the cans be crushed, and there is no incentive to do so. There might be a reason to crush them if you were collecting a lot as a fund raiser or something; it used to be that you got more money if they were crushed (not sure if that is still the case) and of course they take up less room. But be careful of safety!


In competition can crushing we use a much different type of can crusher. The can crusher is built for play. Competition can crushers have been around for many years. The device has a staging area for the game-can and a slide action ram that a player uses to lineup and strike their can. Only one hit per can. The can is scored on compression, rim alignment and stratification (1 point per layer). With this scoring system, it is possible to put an exact numeric score on the competitively crushed can - the "trophy can".

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