Make Money by Recycling

Recycling can be good for both the planet and your wallet. You won’t get rich recycling, but you can earn a little extra cash and keep a lot of waste out of the landfill. So just how do you make money recycling? Simple. Every time you are about to toss an item (even if it’s not a conventional recyclable), stop and ask yourself if there is a way to monetize that item. Recycling is becoming a big bucks industry and there are more and more businesses willing to pay you for your old stuff. Having trouble getting started? Here are some ideas.

Ink cartridges: Staples and OfficeMax both offer store credits when you bring in old ink and toner cartridges for recycling. You have to join their loyalty programs, but you can earn some money to offset the cost of more ink.

Scrap metal: Aluminum, steel and tin cans, as well as almost any other metal can be turned into a scrap dealer for cash. Most cities have at least one metal recycler, you just have to look them up in the Yellow Pages or online. They usually pay by the pound and the price you get is based on the current market value of the item you’re bringing in. They take everything from copper wiring and plumbing to old lawn mowers, grills, and metal tools. Old appliances, bikes, and even cars are all fair game for the metal recycler.

Plastic: Many cities also have plastics recyclers that will pay per pound of plastic. Some will only take certain kinds of plastic, so make certain you understand what’s accepted and what’s not. Additionally, some states now offer a deposit back for every plastic bottle you recycle, similar to the glass deposits that are available in some states.

Glass: You may have a glass recycler in your city who will pay you by the pound for glass. Some states also give a deposit back on glass bottles when you bring them back to the point of purchase.

Cell phones: Don’t toss your old cell phone in the landfill. Websites like will pay you for your old phone. The newer the phone, the more you get paid. If your phone is very old they may not pay for it. In that case, think about donating it to a women’s shelter or other organization and taking a small tax deduction.

Clothes: You can take unwanted clothes in decent condition to either a consignment store or a donation center like Goodwill or the Salvation Army. The consignment store will pay you cash when your items sell or, if you go the donation route, you can take a tax deduction.

Computers/electronics: Some stores and computer manufacturers will give you store credit if you recycle an old computer, TV, or appliance with them. The money, while not significant, can offset the purchase of a new item. You can also donate old computers to local schools for a tax deduction.

Books, CD’s, and DVD’s: If you don’t want to sell them, donate them to your library or to Goodwill for a tax deduction.

Car parts: Ever been to the parts store to buy a battery, tires, or other part and be told that there is a “core charge” or recycling fee for that item? What it means is that, if you don’t turn in the original battery, tires, or car part, that you will be charged extra to offset the likelihood that those parts will end up in the landfill. However, if you bring back the old battery or parts, the store will refund the core charge. Core charges can be significant so never toss an old battery or alternator. Take it to the store where you bought the new one and get your core charge back.

Cars: If your old clunker is such a mess that you can’t trade it in, you have a couple of options. First, you can take it to a metal recycler for cash. Second, you could donate it to a local community college or school that will use it to teach auto repair and you get a tax deduction. Third, you can donate it to an organization like the Salvation Army. They will usually sell the car to raise money and the amount it sells for can be deducted from your taxes.

Old building supplies, appliances, and furniture: Do you have too much paint, extra flooring from your renovation, or perfectly good furniture that you no longer like? If it’s in usable condition, donate it to Habitat for Humanity’s ReStores. These stores sell donated goods for a fraction of the retail price to the public. The money raised goes to fund Habitat’s building projects. You get a tax deduction.

If you can’t recycle something through a conventional recycling outlet, try listing it on Craigslist. You’d be surprised at what people will pay money for. I’ve seen empty CD and DVD cases sell to people who make movies and music for a living. Old bikes or toys are bought by people who refurbish them and then re-sell them. Even newspaper can sell if you have a lot of it and someone needs it for a large project or organization.

Not everything can be recycled for cash. Sometimes you’ll just have to either throw it away or recycle it for free. And if you live in an area without scrap buyers it can be more difficult to turn junk into cash. However, you can make a small amount of fun money by turning your trash into cash when you have the opportunity. Before you throw something out, do a quick Google search to see if there is anyone paying cash for that item. You can do something good for your wallet while helping the environment.

This entry was posted in Frugal, Making Money, Personal Finance, Saving Money and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Make Money by Recycling

  1. I’d like to get my son interested in recycling pop cans. He’s only 9, but he’s very into the environment, and he can make a small profit to boot!

    Thanks for the great topics for recycling! I didn’t know that about computers and computer stores!

  2. Stephan says:

    As i have way more stuff than i use, i have started to go through my own belongings and looking at things i dont need. Honestly, it has become so much easier to get rid of old things and still make a buck on them. I have used craigslist many times to make some extra cash on items i would have thrown away anyways.
    great post, and I feel exactly like you do. I hate shopping, its always a hassle and only got worse recently when i bought my first car. Too be honest, I dont really buy anything for myself anymore, but i do treat myself to getaways and vacations. Since i entered college i realized that i had enough items and wanted to enjoy life more, and the best way to do this is vacations. So now i spend my hard earned money that is leftover after expenses and savings on vacations and not the newest toy.

  3. snshijuptr says:

    We walk our recyclables to our grocery down the street. Our friends come over for game night every Thursday and drink a bunch of soda cans and beer bottles. Since we always host they bring the drinks. I then collect the cans and recycle them. I can get about $2 every 2 weeks. I treat the money like a coupon when we check out.

  4. Forest says:

    I really don’t think people take enough advantage of the tax write offs that can get from donating… Goodwill take almost anything and give you a fair write off for your stuff.

  5. Gail says:

    Recycling in a big way can really save you lots of cash. My husband built our house. The actual cash outlay was about what you would expect for a 1000 sq ft ranch style house, only ours is about 3000 sq ft 2 story. Much of our building supplies were recyled items and some with deep memories. Marble from the school that he and my sons went to before it was torn down. decorative molding from old pianos, doors from our church when it remodeled and the list can go on. We have a very unique house that is worth about 5 times what we paid for it because he recyled and put sweat equity into it.

    When thinking of recycling think big!

  6. laura says:

    does anyone know where to bring beer bottles to be recycled in Tennessee?

  7. sarahjdejong says:

    In Michigan pop cans have the 10c deposit so taking them back can be very lucrative. I give my cans to my little brother so he can use them for gas money or groceries. When I lived in California the local community college had a drop off location where you could either donate your recyclables or receive cash for those with a monetary value. In Tennessee I would suggest contacting the local colleges to see if they have a collection center.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *