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Ways to earn money by recycling

By Edited Sep 25, 2016 0 0

The recycling industry is literally worth billions. At a glance, the sector is worth over 8 billion pounds, an increase of 60% (3 billion pounds) since 2001, says Mike Walker, the policy director at The Environmental Services Association (ESA) – the UK’s waste management industry. According to Glenn Ashton, in his article ‘Zero waste’, 64 kilograms of waste is produced for every one kilogram of product manufactured. That gives one a lot of room to work with to earn some real money, particularly if you are industrious, creative and willing to put in the work. A very tiny percentage of a billion dollar industry is nothing to sneeze at. Here are a few options but you are not limited by them:-

Recycle paper and cardboard

There are many paper and cardboard recycling places more than willing to pay you for your product. If you have a certain amount, they will even collect - saving you time and transport costs. Online sites like boxcycle.com and usedcardboardboxes.com will pay you, although each one has a different buying procedure.

Your hunting ground for paper and cardboard boxes would be corporate businesses, supermarkets, libraries, book shops, bars and pubs, schools, post offices etc. You could even create your own special writing paper as well as gift paper bags and boxes out of shredded paper from offices.

The process is easy, simple and inexpensive and can be done with objects found in your own home. No factory necessary! It is worth looking into and courses are offered at low prices, you may even find a course on how to make gift packaging on the internet for free. It is a great way of adding value at practically no cost to you. Your main investment will be time. It is a less mainstream and a potentially more lucrative way of making money from recycling.

Recycle electronics

According to Treehugger.com, there are a number of companies willing to pay you hard cash for your old cell phone/mobile (very old models do not apply), ink cartridges, computers and many other electronic devices like calculators and cameras etc. Online sites willing to pay cash for your unwanted gadgets include Cellforcash.com, Flipswap.com, Gazelle.com, YouRenew.com and Cashforclunkers.com.

There are more, you simply have to research. Cashforcartridges.com and AdvantageCartridge.com pay you for your old printer cartridges.  EcycleGroup.com pays you for ink cartridges, mp3 players and cell phones/mobiles.  If you look locally, you will find small businesses willing to buy your old gadgets as they refurbish them and sell it at a decent profit.

Recycle glass, metals and aluminum cans

Many companies give you money back on returned beverage glass bottles and aluminum cans. Any aluminum and glass is recyclable. It is usually paid out by recycling companies by the pound/kilogram. You can approach gas stations, clubs, restaurants, pubs or look around parks and beaches for cans/bottles that have been disposed of.

There are different grades of stainless steel that pay too, best ask your local recycle station what pays and what does not. Copper pays as well, leading to the problem of copper theft in some areas. Put your pride aside, put on your investigative hat and transform trash into cash in your spare time or even full time. You have to get out there and find it.

Alternatively, look into how you can obtain a public recycling bin of your own, a permit may be required.  

Recycle clothing and books

Locate second hand stores in your community that pay money for good quality clothing and books. You could even sell them online via online platforms like e-bay. Most countries have their own local versions of this international portal, making it easier for packaging, selling and getting paid for your goods.

There are many clothes and book lovers out there: remember – one man’s trash is another man’s cash. Fashion divas and bookworms could easily fatten your wallet, if you go about selling your unwanted clothing and books in the correct way. 

Make compost

The compost industry is worth over $400 million. Even more interesting: composting is easy as nature does the work for you. You can start simply with a compost bucket in the kitchen to hold all your organic waste and find a shady spot in the garden for your compost heap. Elma Pollard gives simple instructions on how to make your own compost heap in her article ‘Tread lightly – Take your first recycling steps’ in The South African Journal of Natural Medicine, Issue 44. There are a number of websites assisting and guiding you (for free) in creating your own compost.

If you look further into it, you can make your own and sell it to local gardening shops or advertise online on relevant sites. It could prove lucrative for you if followed up and executed correctly.

Create anew

You can create your own products from re-using products like plastic and paper. There are many township projects in Africa where women create fashionable bags out of old discarded plastic. Many of these projects have proven to be lucrative, feeding many families who would otherwise not have been able to put food on the table.

There are, right now, artists out there creating works of art out of scrap, to rival the great works of art housed in global art galleries. The possibilities are endless, the deciding factor is – are you willing to act on it? 


There are a number of ways of making money from recycling. How you approach it will determine it’s profitability for you. Other than putting money in your pocket, you will also be minimizing your carbon footprint and making the earth an even more beautiful place for all to live in. You will leave a legacy for future generations, an earth to be proud of.

A new earth, with a new economy demands a new way of doing things. It is a win-win situation, you definitely can earn money by recycling but you have to go out there and make it happen.



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