How to Get Money for Recycling

Three Methods:Recycling Cans and BottlesRecycling Other Household ItemsSaving Money by Reusing Items

Not only is recycling good for the environment, but you can make money doing it as well. Whether it's collecting cans or selling your old cell phone, there are plenty of ways you can make money by recycling. Some methods are easier than others, but with some effort, you can make a nice profit by recycling a few valuable items.

Method 1
Recycling Cans and Bottles

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    Find out if your state has a bottle bill. Some states have a bottle bill, which means they reimburse 5-10 cents for every empty can or bottle you return.[1]Click here to see if your state has a bottle bill.
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    Locate a bottle return center near you. If your state has a bottle bill, then there should be a bottle return center somewhere near you. Usually bottle return centers have large boxes that look like vending machines where you put your bottles and cans. You'll then receive a ticket that you can redeem for cash. In some areas, supermarkets serve as bottle return centers. Do a quick internet search to find the nearest bottle return center to you.
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    Save the cans and bottles you use in your house. Five cents may not sound like much, but this amount adds up over time. Think about how many cans and bottles your household uses in a week or a month. Get a large bag or bin and put all of your empty cans and bottles in here. Then, when your container is nearly full, visit the nearest bottle return center. Letting the cans accumulate like this will give you a nice return on your recycling efforts.[2]
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    Look for cans and bottles around you neighborhood. You don't have to limit yourself to returning the bottles you use in your own house. Your neighborhood is probably full of cans and bottles you could recycle; you just have to find them. Remember that whenever you pick up bottles and cans, you should wear a thick pair of gloves. You don't want to risk cutting yourself and getting an infection.[3]
    • Visit local parks and playgrounds. Kids and parents probably unknowingly leave a lot of recyclable items in these places. Take a bag and pick them up to bring to a bottle return center.
    • See if any local businesses will give you their cans. Restaurants and stores often recycle cans themselves. Sometimes, however, the owners don't want to go through the trouble, and you could offer to take the cans off their hands. This will give you a steady stream of bottles to redeem.
    • See if neighbors will give you their cans. Again, your neighbors may not want to go through the trouble of recycling their own cans. Offer to take them and you could end up with a nice profit.
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    Sort your cans and bottles. Bottle return centers usually have different machines for plastic, glass, and metal. If you haven't already, sort your cans and bottles into these three groups. That way when you get to the return center you can move efficiently and get your money as quickly as possible.[4]
    • Look for a number on plastics to indicate if it is recyclable. #1 and #2 plastic is the most common type used in bottles, and both are recyclable. [5]
    • To save time, use different containers for glass, plastic, and metal. That way, you won't have to go through the trouble of sorting.
    • For more details one recycling cans and bottles, read Recycle Aluminum Cans and Plastic Bottles and Earn Cash.

Method 2
Recycling Other Household Items

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    Make money by turning in scrap metal. Though it's not as popular as it once was, scrap metal is still a great way to make money by recycling. While it might be difficult to accumulate enough to make a large profit, you can still make money if you happen to come across some valuable scrap metal.[6]
    • First you have to find a scrap yard. Click here to locate a scrap metal yard near you.
    • See if a magnet sticks to your metal. If it does, you have a ferrous metal like steel or iron. These metals are less valuable, but scrap yards will still accept them. If it doesn't, you have a non-ferrous metal like copper or aluminum. These are more valuable.
    • Copper is the most valuable scrap metal. It is usually found in plumbing pipes and electrical wiring.
    • Brass is the second most valuable scrap metal. You can find it in keys, door handles, and lighting fixtures.
    • People who work in the construction business usually find scrap metal easily. Electricians and plumbers also may come across scrap metal in their professions. If you don't work in one of these fields, see if you can find someone who does. They may not want to go through the trouble of bringing their metal to the scrap yard and be willing to give it to you.
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    Sell your old phones and calculators. It is actually illegal to throw these items in the garbage because they contain toxic elements. If you have to recycle your old phone when you get a new one anyway, you might as well make money off it! There are several websites like Gazelle that specialize in buying old electronics. Even if your phone or calculator is broken, these sites will usually still take them. Visit one of these sites to get a quote for your old electronics.[7]
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    Sell your old clothes. Instead of throwing out old clothes, you can sell them for cash. If there is a secondhand store nearby, you can pack up your clothes and take them there. Otherwise, click here for a list of websites that will buy your old clothes.
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    Place empty wine bottles and corks on eBay. Many people make their own wine at home, and they need empty bottles to store it. It would be cheaper to buy an empty bottle online than buying a full bottle at the store. Try taking this route to make some easy money without much effort.[8]
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    Sell your used cooking oil. Biodiesel fuel is becoming a more popular energy source. Buyers take used cooking oil and refine it to power their homes. Do a quick internet search to see if someone near you is willing to buy used cooking oil. Sites like specialize in collecting cooking oil. You can also check Craigslist, since smaller buyers may post ads there.[9]
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    Recycle used tennis balls. Tennis balls contain a lot of rubber, which can be reused. The company Rebounces manufactures new tennis balls from recycled ones. You'll need to collect a lot of tennis balls before making a decent profit, but if you live near a park or tennis club, you probably find them all the time.

Method 3
Saving Money by Reusing Items

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    Save your leftovers. One of the most wasted items in this country is food. If there's still food leftover at the end of your meal, don't throw it out. Save it for at least a few days to see if anyone eats it. If even one meal gets replaced with leftovers, you've saved money and resources.[10]
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    Use dryer sheets as air fresheners. Store-bought air fresheners can get expensive quickly. To avoid this cost, place a few dryer sheets in a room, somewhere out of the way. They will freshen up the room without you having to buy new air fresheners.[11]
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    Refill water bottles instead of throwing them out. If you use water bottles regularly, you've probably seen the costs add up over time; not to mention the damage so many empty bottles does to the environment. Try refilling a bottle a few times before getting rid of it. You could also buy a reusable water bottle. Once you cut out your bottled water expense, you'll save a lot of money.[12]
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    Use empty butter containers to store leftovers. Tupperware can be expensive if you constantly buy new containers. Try saving old butter containers and reusing them to store small portions of leftovers. This way you can avoid replacing your plastic Tupperware containers.[13]
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    Save water from the shower to water plants. Before we get in the shower, we usually let the water run for a few seconds to a few minutes to warm the water. This wastes a lot of water, which will run up your bill every month. Instead, catch this water in a bucket and use it to water your plants. It's good for the environment and it will save you money.[14]
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    Use old T-shirts as rags. There is no need to spend money buying rags. Instead, just use an old T-shirt. This handy trick will save you plenty of money.[15]
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    Save coffee cans and jars to store small items. There is no need to buy small containers to store your household odds and ends. Coffee cans are a great reusable item that many people use for storage. One popular method is using coffee cans in a workshop or garage to store nails and screws.[16]
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    Leave notes on pieces of scrap paper instead of using a writing pad. If you leave little notes for yourself or your family, buying new pads can get expensive. It will save money to write on old scrap paper. For example, if you printed an article off the internet and don't need it any longer, cut it up and use the back for writing notes.[17]
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    Use old towels to dry your pets. When your shower towels get too worn out for you to use, you can still dry your pets with them. If your dog goes outside in the rain, use one of these to rub him off so he doesn't get water and mud all over the house.


  • Some places, including the State of Hawaii, asks residents to remove the tops of plastic bottles and discard them before redeeming.
  • Get a garbage picker to make collecting the waste more hygienic.


  • Watch out for spiders, ants, bugs, slugs, snails, bees and wasps in sugary cans/bottles.
  • Some people use their cans to dispose of cigarettes & candy wrappers, so make sure to check for any waste before compacting.
  • Wash your hands when finished.

Article Info

Categories: Money Management for Young People | Reduce Recycle and Reuse