Photo Caption: Each cube of aluminum cans weighs 30 pounds and is comprised of about 720 individual cans.
Cullison's shop, located on Salem Road west of Athens, is one of a few places in the Athens area that trades cash for cans, 60 cents a pound. That's $4 per 30-gallon bag, but looking at the bags of cans stuffed in the trashcans on Palmer or Mill street in Athens, especially in the aftermath of a student street fest, that wallet can get thick pretty quick.
"They bring about four to five loads, $40 to $50 for cans," said Cullison. "They come in two to three times a day."
What's strange, he said, is only about 10 students cash in on a regular basis. "We get very few college students, from Nelsonville or OU," he said. "I don't think they think it's worth their time to do it."
None of the students interviewed along Palmer Street the day before Palmer Fest May 7 said they planned to recycle, yet alone cash in, the cans piled on their yards over the weekend.
Kelsey Swartzel, a senior long-term health-care administration major at OU, said the female students living at her house are just too lazy to separate recyclables from trash.
"A lot of times we have our recycling bins full of beer (cans) and the can man comes around and collects it," Swartzel said. "We know we can get paid for it, but it's almost too much work."
The "can man," Doug Latz, regularly collects cans to sell at Cullison's shop. Partying students know Latz from the shopping cart he pushes along streets around OU. As the cart stuffed with recyclables rolls past, weekend drinkers snag and shoot empty beers cans from their porches, imitating OU's Tommy Freeman from behind the arch.
Swartzel said the "can man" frequents their yard, asking if he can take the cans they've already trashed.
"He brought in a truckload yesterday, got about $86 for it," said Cullison.
Most students who do recycle follow the traditional route, and just throw the recyclables out on the lawn. From there, it's whoever can get to it first, the city or the "junkies," a term Cullison uses for collectors who fish stuff out of dumpsters, front yards and local farms.
The Athens Hocking Recycling Center picks up and claims about 25 tons of aluminum per year, about $30,000 worth if they were to cash them in at Cullison's Scrap Metals. But they don't.
Roger Bail, coordinator for Athens-Hocking Joint Solid Waste District, which runs the center on Ohio Rt. 13 north of Athens, said that instead of the scrap metal shops, the city sells the material to brokers with favorable buying prices. Bail said currently the selling market is favorable.
"Our [collections] are based on donation to the city," said Bail. "Still, I wouldn't hold it against anyone getting 60 cents a pound."
The university knows about the scrap metal yards too. OU, however, has a recycling contract with the Athens Hocking Recycling Center.
"When the contractor turns down certain recyclables, the university has the right to do something with them," said OU spokeswoman Katie Quaranta.
She said the university earns around $5,000 every year by selling student and university recyclables at local scrap metal yards.
Cullison said permanent Athens residents benefit from the scrap metal yards the most. One collector and self-proclaimed "junker" said with a smile, "We went and got cans; now we're going to get a fishing license."
One man who lives in The Plains frequents dinners at the Good Works homeless shelter in Athens on Friday nights, and then sets out to load his friend's pickup truck in the morning.
Cullison said a couple of his customers even quit their day jobs at McDonald's or other fast-food joints to pick up cans while the schools are in session.
Why don't students take advantage of this moonlighting opportunity?
Cullison said he thinks students just don't know about it.
"We recycle everything that needs to be recycled basically," said senior political science major Paul Hypolite, who also built a compost bin in his backyard, "But we haven't heard about being able to get 60 cents a pound for it."
But Hypolite admitted he probably wouldn't cash in anyway, since he is taking 25 credit hours spring quarter, and doesn't have a car, making transportation to one of the scrap metal sites difficult.
With so many junkers coming around on the weekends, though, some off-campus students see the worth in letting the collectors take their recyclables when asked.
"That extra buck isn't going to mean too much to me," said Andrew Zucker, senior political communication major of 76 Mill St. "But if somebody is going around doing it every weekend, I feel like it probably means a bit more to them."
Cullison said the family shop has been in business for 60 years, preserving the environment and at the same time giving local residents a source of income.