The original machine we had for packaging our aluminum cans was a crushing type machine. We would send the cans up a conveyor belt and they would drop into a large bucket and then down into a compactor and would be compressed into a cube. They would come out a small door and slide down a trough where we would pick them up, stack them in a bale and then strap them together into a multi-cube bale to be picked up by a forklift and placed on an eighteen wheeler.
As part of the crushing and refining process the cans would go up the conveyor, over a magnet to pull out the steel cans and then before they dropped into the compactor they would be slightly crushed and the debris (paper, cigarettes and other dirt) would fall into a 55-gallon drum. This slight crushing process typically caused the pop tops to snap off the can and fall into the “debris” barrel. Once the barrel was full I would take it out back and dump it. This happened about every day or so.
I got to thinking that if I could salvage the pop tops I could sell them and make a profit since they were being thrown away anyway. This was something the former worker was doing. It also kept us awake during the day since there was not a whole lot to do. Therefore, I spent the entire summer salvaging pop tops. It worked this way:
I had a framed table top on four legs that was about 4 feet high. The top of the table had a screen mess type of metal where I could shovel the debris out of the barrel onto the table. Much of the dirt would immediately fall through the screen mesh table top onto the ground. The mesh was small enough to where the tabs could not go through. What was left on the table top was pop tops, which I wanted, small pieces of paper, rocks, a few other small objects and scores and scores of cigarette butts. Pop tops and cigarette butts were the main things left. Once all of the dirt was hand-sifted out I would pour the remainder of the material on the table into a 55-gallon drum of water. The pop tops would go to the bottom of the barrel and the cigarette butts would float on top of the barrel. I would sift (hand scoop) the butts off the top and throw them to the ground. I would then take a forklift to pick up the barrel of water and clean pop tops and pour them back onto the wire mess table. I could then sift out any remaining debris. Then I would take the pop tops and put them in large thick plastic bags and stack them in the corner. These bags were about 5 feet high. They were huge and very heavy. Once I had a vanload, which was over 600 pounds I had Penny take them to a buyer and we made enough money to buy a piano. It took all summer, was a bit of dirty fun and well worth it. I made over $300 cash for my part-time job.