Cash for Your Trash: Here’s How Recycling Your Garbage Might Save You Money

Woman composting organic kitchen waste
KatarzynaBialasiewicz/Getty Images

What has four wheels and flies?

A garbage truck.

Okay, that’s corny. But the amount of garbage Americans generate each year is no joke.

The American Society of Civil Engineers says we create 4.4 pounds of trash per person, per day.

According to the ASCE, 53% of that waste ends up in landfills. That’s hard on our environment, and hauling it away is hard on our wallets.

Depending on where you live, trash-collection fees may appear on your property-tax bill, be included on your utility bill or paid directly to your city or town. Whichever way your town rolls, garbage pickup can be expensive.

Many municipalities charge customers based on the size of their curbside trash bins. The bigger the bin, the higher the bill.

Charging by bin size encourages residents to compost and recycle as much trash as possible. Less solid waste lowers how much municipalities pay for trash collection and (hopefully) lets them pass the savings on to residents.

Plus, it’s just good for the environment.

Cities and towns across the country already provide free or low-cost recycling bins to encourage residents to separate their trash before putting it out for collection.

Some municipalities are taking things a step further, offering rebates and other incentives to people who also compost food scraps and yard waste.

Here’s a sampling of what some cities and towns offer. Check with your local Department of Public Works to find out if there are similar programs in your area.

Austin, Texas

Austin’s Chicken Keeping Rebate Program is as delightfully weird as the city itself. Residents can collect a $75 rebate by taking a free chicken-keeping class and purchasing a coop to corral them.

If chickens aren’t your thing, you have another option. In June 2018, Austin’s Curbside Composting Collection Program kicks in to collect food scraps, grass clippings and other compostable waste from residents. Recycling and composting help residents downsize their trash bins to save money on utility bills. The city even delivers the smaller bins for free.

Chicago, Illinois

Residents of Chicago are eligible to receive 50% off any locally purchased compost bin.

San Mateo, California

San Mateo residents who are handy with a hammer can get a rebate of up to $100 by building a DIY compost bin. Additional discounts of up $25 are also available to those who attend a local composting workshop.

Washington, D.C.

The District offers a rebate of up to $75 to residents who purchase and install a composting or vermicomposting (worm-composting) system in their home.

Once you’ve got recycling and composting figured out, it might be time to give the zero-waste life a try.

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.