Garbage Day Could Be Payday! 3 Ways to Turn Your Trash Into Cash

cans, bottles and other trash
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Do you know how much garbage you produce each week?

Better question: Are you prepared to see it firsthand, getting up close and personal by lying amid a week’s worth of your trash?

Amazingly, some people were.

Photographer Gregg Segal captured the results in his startling series “7 Days of Garbage.” You can take a look at what a typical week of trash looks like for different households in this article on Slate.

We see two morals in this pungent story:

  1. Americans produce a scary amount of trash.

  2. Some of that trash could be put to better use — making us cold, hard cash.

We took a closer look at these unpleasant but powerful photos to identify three ways these people could be turning their trash into cash — and you could be, too.

1. How to Make Money Recycling

Instead of tossing items that aren’t biodegradable, find recycling centers that’ll pay you for them.

Bottles and Cans

Depending on your state’s return laws, you can save cans and return them to your local grocery store or recycling center for profit.

Wine Bottles and Corks

They’re actually hot material for DIY projects, and artists and crafters will pay for them on eBay. Just wash off your wine corks, list them and make money!

Metal Bits and Pieces

You don’t have to have a big item like a beat-up car to make money selling scrap metal. Everything from old door locks to copper wiring can fetch a decent price if you collect enough of it.

Other Miscellaneous Recyclable Material

Get paid to have your city haul away your recyclables! Recyclebank works with waste haulers in many communities to track how much recycling they collect from your curb. You earn points for each haul, which you can cash in for rewards like magazine subscriptions and shopping discounts.

If you prefer to give back, Terracycle will send you a prepaid box to mail your recycling in. Every box you send in earns you points that you can redeem for charitable gifts or donations to the nonprofit or school of your choice.

2. Reuse Waste to Earn and Save Money

Before you stick scraps in the trash, get creative to see how they can save you money!

Unused Fruit

Not sure you’ll be able to eat all that fruit before it goes bad? Make it into jam or preserves to sell at your local farmers market.

Soggy Coffee Grounds

Used coffee grounds actually make great compost, as two business students found out and leveraged into their Back to the Roots urban mushroom-growing kits.

Food Scraps

Create a compost heap in your yard, and use it to fertilize a kitchen garden to reduce your grocery bills.

Random Fabric Scraps and Other Non-Recyclables

Get crafty! You can make everything from purses to picture frames with a little artistic creativity and sell them on sites like Etsy.

These women in Turkey built a whole business out of turning used packaging like candy wrappers and canned-food labels into clutches and handbags.

3. Sell Your Trash for Profit

One man’s trash… you know the saying. Here are a few old items you could sell instead of throwing away.

Food Packaging

Cut out those Boxtops for Education, and sell them on eBay. You may not have any use for them, but they’re worth money to other people.

Old Baby Toys and Household Miscellany

Even though you’re no longer using something, someone else might be able to get many more years out of it.

Rather than trashing your gently used items, consider selling them at a flea market, garage sale or on Craigslist to put extra cash in your pocket (and keep one more item out of a landfill).

Defunct Phones

Upgraded to something cooler? Don’t junk your old device — you can sell it.

Used Stuffed Animals

Clean them up, and sell them on eBay. Collectors, gift givers and people looking to recapture their childhood are all willing to pay to take them off your hands.

Go Beyond Your Own Trash

Once you’ve learned how to maximize the profit with your own trash, why not take it up a notch and start selling other people’s junk?

Dumpster diving and curbside trolling aren’t just for recent grads hoping to score a futon. They can also become a nice side business if you’re willing to put in a little work.

You can also snag free items on Craigslist and resell them for 100% profit.

Look at you: saving the planet and making money at the same time!

Kelly Gurnett is a freelance blogger, writer and editor who runs the blog Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she documents her attempts to rid her life of the things that don’t matter and focus more on the things that do. Follow her on Twitter @CordeliaCallsIt.