Why throw things away when you can recycle them and earn a little money in return?
By diverting certain items from the waste stream and keeping them out of landfills, you can also earn extra money or help worthy causes. From scrap metal to ink cartridges, bullets, and building supplies, you can recycle a wide variety of items for cash or goodwill.
Ready to see all the different things you can recycle for money?
Find a collection point
To find a recycling center near you, go to Earth911.com and connect the item you want to recycle along with its location. The site lists pickup locations for materials as diverse as antifreeze and ammunition. Of course, not everything is worth it, but it is important to properly dispose of potentially dangerous items.
Prepare items for recycling
Check with your local collection point for specific rules for preparing your recyclables. Some centers require you to remove the caps from the bottles, rinse and bag the bottles in certain increments, or sort and tie the carton. Checking the rules before you go will save you time later.
Make sure to properly pack items that might get a little dirty. Even if you rinse all bottles and cans well, there may still be water and other residue, so be sure to transport them in containers or bags to protect the interior of your car.
If you’re donating a cell phone or other electronic item, be sure to delete your personal information, including contact lists, voicemails, text messages, photos, passwords, downloads, and anything else you don’t want random strangers to access. Back up your information to your new phone, your computer, or a cloud-based service, then restore your old phone to factory settings before recycling.
Items you can recycle for money
Depending on where you live, you may be paid to recycle certain items. Here are some common recyclables and how to recycle them.
Scrap metal is one of the most profitable materials to recycle.
Copper, steel, and aluminum are just a few of the scrap metals that you can recycle for money. Google your local area and “junkyard” to find a facility that accepts all the metals you have and learn their delivery procedures.
Once you’ve rounded your metal, find out if it’s ferrous or non-ferrous by seeing if a magnet sticks to it. If so, the metal is ferrous and probably a common metal like steel or iron. These items are usually not worth much, but they are worth recycling. If the magnet does not stick, you are probably holding copper, aluminum, brass, bronze, or stainless steel. These metals are more valuable.
Copper is one of the most profitable metals – copper wire and tube yields between $ 1 and $ 3 per pound. Aluminum typically earns 40-70 cents a pound, yellow brass can yield around $ 1.50 a pound, and molten metal is in the 30-cent-a-pound range, though local prices vary.
2. Bottles and cans
A Penny Hoarder writer made $ 1,500 collecting soda cans he picked up at work. You can also earn money by collecting bottles and cans, whether at work, friends and family, at events, or simply from the recyclables you use at home.
California offers 5 cents for most plastic and glass bottles and aluminum cans under 24 ounces, and 10 cents for containers of 24 ounces or more. It’s technically a bottle deposit, but many people don’t bother to collect their refunds, making it easy money for bottle and can collectors.
Michigan has a recycling rate of 10 cents per bottle, which has led to people smuggling empty bottles bought out of state to collect them. (This was even the plot of a Seinfeld episode!). Many states have similar deposit programs, so check what is available where you live.
3. Car batteries
Advance Auto Parts offers a $ 10 store gift card to customers who bring their used car batteries (light truck batteries also accepted). If the business does not have a point of sale near you, call your local auto parts stores to see if they offer similar offers.
4. Ink cartridges
Several office supply stores, including Staples and Office Depot, accept used ink cartridges for recycling. Staples offers a $ 2 rebate per cartridge, with a maximum of 10 returns per month, and you must spend at least $ 30 on ink or toner within 180 days of recycling.
Office Depot also returns you $ 2 in program rewards for every ink or toner cartridge you recycle, up to 10 cartridges per month. But you must also buy ink from them the same month. There is no limit to the number of cartridges you can recycle, but you will only receive points for the first 10 per month. You can use your points to get different benefits and discounts.
Eco-Cell is one of many companies that offers cash for old cell phones and other electronic devices. The company accepts phones, tablets, rechargeable batteries, circuit boards, and a variety of other electronic devices that are working or damaged. Even if an item breaks or is submerged in water and cannot be used, Eco-Cell will accept it to divert electronic devices from landfills and properly dispose of their toxic metals and components.
Many cell phone providers, including Verizon and AT&T, have trade-in programs where you can receive a voucher, gift card, or other reward for turning in your old phone. Amazon Trade-in is another way to earn gift cards.
Several charities also accept mobile phones, either for reuse or to sell and use the funds for charitable purposes. Cell Phones for Soldiers refurbishes and sells your old phone to active duty military members and veterans. If a phone is too old or broken, Cell Phones for Soldiers sells it to recyclers who strip it of parts and dispose of its metals responsibly. Proceeds from sales go toward purchasing international calling cards for troops and providing emergency financial assistance to veterans.
And of course you can always sell your old phone yourself.
6. Junk cars
Your old rusty junk? You can recycle it for money. There are companies that pay cash for damaged cars.
Junk Car Medics is one, and you can sell your car to them online or over the phone. Enter details about your vehicle, such as condition and mileage, and quickly get an offer. If you accept it, you will need to provide proof of ownership and a few other details before you get paid. The company says most transactions are done the same day and your car is taken away.
7. The rest of your unwanted stuff
You can “recycle” the belongings you no longer want across a variety of applications and platforms and get something in return. ThredUp and Poshmark are popular apps where you can sell clothes online.
ThredUp will send you a free shipping label and apply credits for anything you sell on your own account, but it’s often not a lot of money. Poshmark offers higher potential payouts, but you need to try harder to get your items moving.
OfferUp is a second-hand site where you can buy or sell almost anything that you no longer use.
Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.