Cleaning up with the Can Man

The Leicester Can Man at the 2012 Keep Britain Tidy awards

My story began back in 2010, when after falling on hard times with wage cuts at work and after having spent several hours doing voluntary work taking part in river clean ups, i wanted to find a way to do more and help my local area to remove some of the rubbish around the area. I also wanted to find a way to help myself with a bit of extra cash to look forward to at the end of the year.

So  in October 2010, i decided to undertake the challenge of collecting and removing  aluminium drinks cans from the streets of where i live and putting them into the recycling machine at a Tesco store where they have a recycling centre. After doing some research i found the machine gives 1 point for every 2 aluminium drinks cans you put into the machine.

As the weeks went past i found myself spending more and more time going out and collecting cans, there never seemed to be a shortage in the area, and the total amount that i had collected went up and up.

During one evening whilst out and about an off duty Leicester Mercury reporter saw me working away collecting cans, a story was reported in our local paper about my efforts, and to this day i have become nicknamed ‘Can Man’ – partly because of my can recycling but also because of my ‘Can Do’ approach to my efforts. I’ve had a lot of press coverage about my recycling and my work, and also a lot of good responses from members of the public about the difference i make while out and about. This helps me push on further and gives me the determination to make it more of  a success.

My work was recently recognised in the way of a National award from Keep Britain Tidy, in which i was awarded the ‘Local Environment Champion Of The Year 2012’. It’s taken a lot of hard work and can collecting to get recognised for my work, currently nearly 35,000 cans have been put back into the system for recycling, and more importantly taken off the streets, making the place look nicer and cleaner.
I’ve also set up my own website to promote my work and to show what can be done, I highlight my work on my adaptable wheelie bin and also my bike and trailer from which was kindly donated by Bikes4All. I advertise the total i have recycled as i walk and bike around.

The work i have done has also caught the eye of the City Mayor of Leicester, Sir Peter Soulsby, and a public event is being staged when i reach the 50,000th can sometime later in the year.

I want to highlight what can be done and i’d like to expand my work with a sponsor. I think it just goes to show what can be done. Recycling rates would be increased dramatically if other items were incentivised like glass for example, and a return of the bottle back scheme, then we could have a new person called the ‘Bottle Man!’

Adrian Ablett


  1. Mate got loads of crushed ally cans for you.will drop em off . Let me no when.

  2. Our Norfolk councils won’t accept crushed or flattened cans in the recycling wheelie bins,as they foul up the sorting machinery. This means I take them to the recycling centre and tip in the waste metal skip. Does this apply to other areas please?

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