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The Ultimate Guide to Recycling for Money

The Ultimate Guide to Recycling for Money

If there’s one thing Americans are optimistic about, it’s recycling. I mean, why should we create trash, when recycled bottles and cans can provide the materials to make things? Not only recycling practical, it can sometimes be profitable. That’s why we’ve created a helpful guide on recycling for money.

According to the EPA, “Recycling just 10 plastic bottles saves enough energy to power a laptop for more than 25 hours.” This energy efficiency reduces our carbon footprint and reduces the strain on the environment caused by waste. Plus, our recycling centers need us to show our commitment now more than ever.

Learn how to help the planet and line your pockets with recycling.

Couple Recycling Bottles

How to get money for recycling

As you’ll see below, there are a lot of different ways to go about recycling for money. But before you take your goods in, you should prepare for the worst. If your materials are dirty, greasy, torn or otherwise damaged, they might not gain entry into the recycling system.

That’s why you should be sure to prepare items for recycling. Remove mixed materials like labels and tape, rinse your bottles and cans completely clean and bring them in as dry as possible.

Remember that recycling centers process by material type, so ensuring that your cardboard boxes are just cardboard boxes and nothing else helps them out.

Recycling cans and bottles for money

Currently ten states charge about five to ten cents extra for the bottles and cans of most beverages for their bottle deposit system. Anytime you buy a beverage, you’re paying extra for the bottle or can. But there’s a way to get that money back when the container’s empty. Simply return your empty bottles and cans to recycling center drop-off points or at participating grocery stores and you’ll receive money.  

The participating states in the bottle deposit schemes include California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon and Vermont. If you’re living in one of these states, check the exact details on the types of bottles and cans accepted because programs vary state to state.

It may seem insignificant to earn back five cents for a plastic bottle, but Waste 360 reports that in 2010, states with bottle bills recycled almost half of all recycled containers, even though they only account for about a third of the population. These states recycle 66 to 96 percent of their bottles. That shows that when there’s a clear incentive, Americans rise to the recycling challenge.

Cardboard recycling for money

Some people may not realize that companies outside of the regular recycling system accept used cardboard boxes. The boxes have to be kept in good condition, but you can turn them in for cash. You can sell your boxes using websites like Boxcycle, Rebox corp, Duffy Box, Surplus Boxes, and Used Cardboard Boxes. At Boxcycle, standard size moving boxes earn $0.50 to $1.25 per box.  

Selling cardboard works especially well for businesses that receive lots of shipments because they can sell in bulk quantities. Try pooling together box resources in your apartment building or neighborhood to reach higher quantities.

Recycling electronics for money

Your old cell phones and computers are not only tiny stores of information, they’re filled with valuable electronic parts. Don’t miss the opportunity to sell back your old gadgets for money. Here are some sites that make selling easy: Gazelle, Sellcell and YouRenew. Bestbuy stores also offers compensation on larger electronics.

A word of caution: Remember to delete your personal data from your electronics before turning them in. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Surprising ways to earn money and rewards for recycling

To truly ascend the ranks of recycling, you need to think outside of the (cardboard) box. People find value in pretty random things. Remember beanie babies? So, here’s a list of things you could return for some spare cash:

  • Ink toner cartridges

While stores like Staples accept some cartridges in return for store credit, this is not the only option. A quick internet search will lead you to other sites like Tonerbuyer that allow you to sell your old printer cartridges.

  • Scrap metal

Cars, appliances and even plumbing parts have the potential to earn you money from scrap dealers. The best way to learn about the current rates of metal and find a local dealer is to use the convenient iScrap app.

  • Cooking oil  

While you know it shouldn’t go down the drain, you may not know that some biofuel companies like Blue Honey Biofuels and actually want your used cooking oil. They’re even willing to pay for it.

  • Wine corks

Your best bet to check for wine cork buyers is Ebay. Make sure your corks are real cork, not plastic, though.

  • Car batteries

Check with your local automotive dealers to see if they’ll buy your old car batteries.

  • Books

Books, especially textbooks, are still a hot commodity even after the semester ends. You can easily enter your ISBN from your mammoth Statistics or Biology book to check its buy-back price on Bookscouter and Decluttr.

  • Earn rewards

While it’s not actually recycling for “money” some recycling outlets offer point based rewards systems. That way, you can use your points to buy things from a catalogue of goodies. It’s kind of like collecting coupons. The companies offering rewards for recycling include Terracycle, Recycle Bank and Recycling Perks.

Browse the Recycling Exchange Index on to discover even weirder things people will pay you money to recycle.

Is there a recycling center near me?

After all this talk about recycling, you may be scratching your head and wondering where to go to recycle in your area. Lucky for you, there are several websites that make it easy to look up your local recycling center.

First check Earth 911, which is an excellent recycling information hub.

If that doesn’t do the trick, then try Recycle Finder or

The more you show support for your local recycling centers, the more likely they are to survive this rough period for recycling everywhere.

You recycle. You compost. You buy organic produce and bring your own shopping bags.

But what about your uncle Ned?

Jump start the journey


Debczak, M. (2019, February 20). The 10 Most Valuable Beanie Babies That Could Be Hiding in Your Attic. Mental Floss. Retrieved from

EPA. (2019, May 16). Frequent Questions on Recycling. Retrieved from

Gerlat, A. (2015, November 11). 11 States That Had Success with Container Deposit Laws. Waste 360. Retrieved from

Schultz J. (2018 March, 14). State Beverage Container Deposit Laws. National Conference of State Legislatures. Retrieved from

Waste Dive. (2019, June 5). How recycling is changing in all 50 states. Retrieved from