These Are Everyday Items That You Can Recycle for Money
Why toss things in the trash when you can recycle them — and make a little money in return?
By diverting certain items from the waste stream and keeping them out of landfills, you can also make extra money or help out worthy causes. From scrap metal to ink cartridges, bottle caps to construction materials, you can recycle a variety of items in exchange for cash. We’ve also included information on how to recycle items for the sake of good will.
Businesses also should look at the recycling market for extra cash. Restaurants can sell used or rancid cooking oil. And old cars and vans can be scrapped for money, as well as large appliances.
Take a look at the different things you can recycle for money.
How to Recycle Household Items for Cash
First, you’ll need to find a recycling center or collection point that is looking for what you want to get rid of. Although the goal is to make money, you might settle for a donation — which could be tax deductible — if it means clearing out the garage. The collection center will also let you know how to prepare items to their specifications.
Find a Collection Point
To find a recycling center near you, head to Earth911.com and plug in the item you’re looking to recycle along with your location. The site lists collection locations for materials as diverse as antifreeze, ammunition, computers and clothes.
Prepare Items for Recycling
It’s important to prepare recyclables according to the organization’s specifications. This is especially important if you are recycling hazardous materials. Metal scrappers pay more for clean metal, sometimes almost twice as much.
Recycling centers may require you to remove bottle caps, rinse and bag bottles in certain increments or sort and tie together cardboard. Checking the rules before you go will save you time later.
Be sure to properly bag items that may make a bit of a mess. Even if you thoroughly rinse all your bottles and cans, there might be water and other residue on them, so be sure to transport them in bins or bags to protect the interior of your car.
If you’re donating a cellphone or other electronic item, be sure to clear your personal information from it, including contact lists, voicemails, text messages, photos, passwords, downloads and anything else you wouldn’t want strangers to access. Backup your information on your new phone, your computer or a cloud-based service, then restore your old phone to factory settings before recycling it.
Items You Can Recycle for Money
There are a lot of recyclable items around the house (maybe in the garage) that can bring in some money. Depending on where you live, you can get paid to recycle:
- Scrap metal
- Bottles and cans
- Car batteries
- Ink cartridges
- Cellphones and other electronics
- Junk cars
- Wine corks
- Cardboard boxes
- Cooking Oil
1. Scrap Metal
Scrap metal is one of the more profitable materials to recycle.
Copper, steel and aluminum are just a few of the scrap metals you can recycle for money. Google your area and “scrap yard” to find a facility that takes whatever metals you have and learn their procedures for drop off.
Once you have rounded up your metal, find out if it is ferrous or non-ferrous by seeing if a magnet sticks to it. If it does, the metal is ferrous and likely a common metal like steel or iron. These items typically aren’t worth much, but it’s still worthwhile to recycle them. If the magnet does not stick, you likely have copper, aluminum, brass, bronze or stainless steel on your hands. These metals are more valuable.
If you’re recycling used truck and auto parts, it’s worth cleaning them up to get more money from the scrapyard. And don’t overlook old tools as a source of metal scrapping. Some old tools are collectible items. Check online before you decide to get rid of them. Those that aren’t collectibles can be scrapped, especially if they are made of tool steel.
2. Bottles and Cans
One Penny Hoarder writer made $1,500 cashing in soda cans he collected at work — although that may not be possible if you’re one of the thousands of Americans working from home. Still, you can make money by rounding up bottles and cans, whether from work, friends and family, at events or just the recyclables you use at home.
These 10 states have bottle bills: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon and Vermont.
California offers 5 cents for most plastic and glass bottles and aluminum cans smaller than 24 ounces; it offers 10 cents for 24-ounce or larger containers. It’s technically a bottle deposit, but many people don’t bother to collect their refunds, so it’s easy money for bottle and can collectors.
Michigan has a 10-cents per bottle recycling rate, which in the past has prompted people to smuggle in bottles purchased out of state to cash in. (This was even the plot of one “Seinfeld” episode!) Many states have similar deposit programs, so check what’s available where you live.
3. Car Batteries
Advance Auto Parts offers a $10 store gift card to customers who bring in their used car batteries (light-duty truck batteries also are accepted). If the company doesn’t have a location near you, call your local auto parts stores to see whether they offer similar deals.
4. Ink Cartridges
A number of office supply stores, including Staples and Office Depot, accept used ink cartridges for recycling. Staples offers its rewards members $2 back per cartridge, with a maximum of 20 returns per month, and you have to spend at least $50 on ink or toner within 180 days of recycling.
Office Depot also gives $2 back in program rewards for each ink or toner cartridge you recycle, up to 10 cartridges per month. But you also must make a $10 qualifying purchase from them the same month.
Eco-Cell is one of many companies that offers cash for old cellphones and other electronics. The company accepts phones, tablets, rechargeable batteries, circuit boards and more. Even if an item is broken or was submerged in water and is unusable, Eco-Cell will accept it in order to divert electronics from landfills and properly dispose of their toxic components and metals.
Many cellphone 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.
A number of charities also accept cellphones, whether to repurpose or sell them and use the funds for a charitable purpose. 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 for parts and dispose of its metals responsibly. The proceeds from the sales go to purchase international calling cards for troops and provide emergency financial assistance to veterans.
Organizations that work with domestic abuse victims also accept used cellphones for their clients for emergency 911 calls.
And, of course, you can always sell your old phone yourself.
6. Junk Cars
What about your rusted old jalopy? You can recycle it for money, too. There are companies that pay cash for broken down cars. U-Pull-It has a helpful guide on the best way to scrap your car.
Junk Car Medics is another company that will buy your vehicle. You can sell your car to them online or over the phone. You enter details about your vehicle, such as condition and mileage, and quickly get an offer. If you accept the offer, you’ll have to provide proof of ownership and a few other details before you get paid. The company says most transactions are same-day, and they take the car away for you.
7. Wine Corks
Why not let your wine pay for itself a little bit? Sites like Etsy and Ebay show listings for used wine corks. Selling on these sites isn’t difficult. When setting prices, keep in mind that the sites charge small fees for both listing and selling items.
You also want to make sure you know how much it will cost to mail an item so there are no unpleasant surprises during the transaction.
8. Used Boxes
Just moved and have a bunch of boxes? Or do you have a slight online shopping addiction and have piles of boxes in the garage? You can resell your boxes through Boxcycle and other similar sites. They take pretty much everything as long as they are still in decent shape and don’t smell.
Old laptops, monitors, tablets and other electronics can be sold through sites like Decluttr. But wait, there’s more! They also take DVDs, CDs, books, games and cellphones. Decluttr has an app you can download to make selling easier.
A similar site is IWM, which stands for It’s Worth More. It covers similar electronics but also includes camera sales.
10. Cooking Oil
Used (or spoiled) cooking oil is used in biofuels, which is a growing market. Although an individual household may not use a lot of oil, many restaurants do. Lots of companies can offer to take your oil. Only a handful will pay for it. GF Commodities services most of the continental U.S. and will pay for oil.
11. The Rest of Your Unwanted Stuff
You can “recycle” belongings you no longer want on a variety of apps and platforms and get a little something back for them. ThredUp, Swap and Poshmark are popular apps where you can sell clothes online.
ThredUp will send you a free shipping label and apply credits for anything that sells to your own account, but it’s often not a lot of money. Poshmark offers bigger potential payouts, but you have to put in more work to make your items move.
OfferUp is a second-hand site where you can buy or sell just about anything you no longer use.
Ziffit is another site for selling CDs, DVDs, books and games.
And if you have a bunch of gift cards you haven’t used (and probably won’t), you can sell them online for cash. It won’t be for the full amount of the card, but it’s better than them sitting in the junk drawer. Cardcash lets you post your card and sell it directly. On Clipkard, you post what you have and the site directly makes you an offer.
Cash is nice, but sometimes trading is better. There are bartering sites for almost anything. Trade for houses, books, clothing and more. Some sites charge a fee for participating or individual transactions.
A general purpose site is Barter Only.
You might hear public radio stations asking you to donate your old vehicles for a tax donation. If you don’t mind putting in a little more work on your tax return, you can get significant deductions by donating larger, unwanted items.
Many nonprofits work with companies collecting and selling cars, boats, motorcycles, golf carts and other vehicles. The vehicle gets picked up and is sold at auction. Once it’s sold, you get a notice of the amount sold for your taxes. Although it isn’t direct cash, if you need a big deduction one year, this could help.
Contributor JoEllen Schilke writes on money-saving strategies and lifestyle topics and Kristen Pope is a former Penny Hoarder contributor.