The recycling industry has become a multi-billion dollar business, proving that you can make money recycling. The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. estimated that annual revenue from recycling bottles, cans, paper, electronics and other materials was $75 billion last year. Due to the increase in recycling companies, and the vast array of recyclable items, it is easier now than ever before to get paid to recycle. So grab a couple of trash bags and prepare to turn your trash to cash.
Unfortunately some people aren’t as quick to catch on to the benefits of recycling. I mentioned in our previous recycling article that only 32 percent of people in the U.S. recycle. That number has slowly improved over the years, but it’s nowhere near what it should be. Most eco conscious people are well aware of the importance of recycling, but many may need an added incentive. As a result, many local governments have put in place recycling programs that allow people to make money recycling. There are also other creative recycling ideas that pay off in the end.
When I was younger, I was always looking to make a quick dollar. I quickly learned that there was a decent market in recycling bottles and cans. I would get the biggest trash bag I could find, and slowly compile as many cans as possible. I filled multiple bags and stored them in the corner of the garage until my mom had some time to haul them off to the nearest aluminum can recycling center. Aluminum can recycling prices vary from five to ten cents per can so the payout usually wasn’t substantial; usually enough for me to head over to the local arcade and play Street Fighter and buy a few packs of baseball cards. I was pleased with my operation and often wanted to expand it, but didn’t have the resources…mainly transportation. Eventually I got a real job, and abandoned my recycling business in favor of curbside recycling.
A few months ago I was once again intrigued by the recycling business. I play softball at a park two nights a week and always see the same lady gathering bottles and cans. I was really curious about her operation and how much money was involved so one night I finally asked her about it. She told me that she walks the one mile perimeter of the park for about five hours, collecting bottles and cans, and gathers approximately $30-40 each night. That may seem like a significant amount of cans, but when you have four fields playing three games every night, composed of 10-12 guys whose usual drink of choice is Gatorade or cheap beer, you can imagine how that would add up. Betty said that she usually collects 5 nights a week, which ends up not being too bad for some extra change.
Recycling bottles and cans is probably the most obvious and old fashioned way to make money recycling but there are several other ways. There is a lot of value in recycling scrap metal. Aluminum and iron are the most commonly found scrap metals. Aluminum generally goes for 25 cents a pound, so if you manage to find a heavy item like an old gutter or an aluminum door, it can start to add up pretty quickly. If you look in the right places, such as construction sites, yard sales, or trash day, you may be able to see those dollars stack up.
Another way to make money recycling is taking your old threads to a clothing consignment shop. Some people may throw out old clothing and some may donate it, but if it’s in good enough condition, you may as well get paid for the items that spent your hard earned cash on. I have a friend that has a clothing consignment shop and makes a decent living, essentially recycling clothes. She heads out to her favorite Goodwill and Salvation Army stores and picks out a variety of items that she believes will have a decent resale value. Then she takes a couple appealing photos of the merchandise, gives them a “vintage” title and resells them for a markup on her online vintage store. I never imagined people clamoring for used clothing, but sometimes it can be more appealing than new department store clothing. The same can be said for furniture. Rather than trashing your furniture, it’s always a good idea to try to get some cash for it.
E waste recycling has become a very popular way to make money recycling. Many electronic waste disposal sites will collect your electronic goods for free, but many companies are now offering cash for used cell phones, computers, TV’s, VCR’s and printers. In addition, many businesses also offer rewards when you recycle ink cartridges. For example, the popular office supply store, Staples, offers $2 back for any ink or toner recycled.
If money still isn’t motivating you to recycle, there are community recycling programs that offer recycle rewards without ever having to leave the house. Recyclebank.com is an incentive-based recycling program that offers residents up to $35 back each month. They distribute personalized recycling containers to each household that come equipped with an RF ID chip. Specially equipped trucks weigh, scan and send information to their data base for each pick up. Participants then log on to the recyclebank website to view how many points they have accrued and can cash out their points at over 400 retailers.
Recycling is a great way to reduce waste and help save the environment, but it’s also an easy way to make money. So next time you go to throw something away, remember the phrase, “one man’s trash, is another man’s cash.” You may not get rich from recycling, but I’m sure most people would enjoy a few extra dollars and a clean conscious knowing that they are making a difference in the environment.