These days, recycling goes way beyond hauling bottles and cans to the curb for roadside pickup. You can recycle almost anything in your home.
Even better, dozens of retailers and other organizations offer incentives for recycling — from discounts on future purchases to gift cards to actual cash.
That means recycling doesn’t just keep the planet green. It also puts green in your wallet.
Household Goods You Can Recycle for Cash, Money, or Rewards
Even if you live somewhere with municipal recycling, some locations don’t accept everything. So it’s nice to know there are places to take your recyclables. And if you know where to go, you can even recycle many of your household goods for cash or rewards.
1. Product Packaging
You can recycle all kinds of household product packaging for rewards, from baby food jars to laundry detergent containers.
One central recycler runs most of these programs — TerraCycle. It collects and recycles the packaging for various brands.
All brands offer TerraCycle points, which you can redeem for donations to the school or charity of your choice. However, each brand’s program varies in its terms and conditions and the rewards it offers. For example, some brands offer additional rewards, such as brand-specific discounts.
A few of the brands that partner with TerraCycle for packaging recycling include:
- GoGo squeeZ
- Gerber Baby Food
- Earthborn Pet Food
- Herbal Essences
- Arm & Hammer
This is not an exhaustive list. More and more brands continue to partner with TerraCycle. So it’s worthwhile to check back to see if the brands you use have added a program.
Additionally, some brands take packaging from other brands too. For example, Tide’s recycling program accepts fabric care products and packaging for recycling from Gain, Downy, and Dreft brands because they’re all owned by Procter & Gamble.
You can find packaging recycling programs for many popular beauty and cosmetics brands on TerraCycle. But tons of other beauty and cosmetics retailers have their own reward programs to encourage consumers to recycle. See our article for a list of the top beauty recycling programs for more info.
If you can’t find your favorite brand on TerraCycle, it could have its own recycling program — especially since recycling options encourage consumer loyalty. So try an online search before tossing your packing in the trash. The retailer could reward your effort with cash or a discount on a future purchase.
2. Sheets & Towels
If you have stained or hole-riddled household textiles like sheets and towels, it’s tough to find a place to donate them, much less recycle them for cash or a reward.
But H&M’s Clothes the Loop recycling program takes any brand of clothing or textiles in any condition. In exchange, they give you a voucher for 15% off your next purchase at an H&M store.
For more places to donate used clothing, check out our article on recycling clothing for money or rewards.
3. Car Batteries
Some automotive parts retailers give you rewards for recycling car batteries. That’s because manufacturers can use the lead and plastics inside a car battery to make new batteries. So everyone wins.
Two major retailers that give you rewards for recycling your car batteries include:
- AutoZone. Receive $22 store credit toward purchasing a new car battery when you trade in an old car battery at any AutoZone anywhere it isn’t prohibited by state law. Or get a $10 gift card to use toward any type of purchase.
- Advance Auto Parts. Get a $10 store gift card in exchange for recycling your old car, golf, marine, or light truck battery at any Advance Auto Parts anywhere it isn’t prohibited by state law.
4. Bottles & Cans
Some states have what are known as “bottle bills,” which are an incentive to recycle. You pay a deposit on each bottle or can you buy, ranging from $0.05 to $0.15. Then, when you return them to the store where you purchased them, you get your deposit back.
States that have bottle bills include:
- New York
However, even if you don’t live in a state with a bottle bill, you can still make a small amount of money recycling your bottles and cans.
Aluminum is worth money on its own. Although prices can vary widely depending on your area, you often see rates of $0.60 to $0.70 per pound, give or take. For example, in my area, aluminum cans are worth $0.70 per pound. There are about 32 cans in a pound (depending on manufacturer). So I could make $20 if I collected 915 cans.
Plastic bottles come in two types: the clear kind used in most beverage containers and the cloudy or opaque kind, such as those used for milk jugs or bottles of laundry detergent. Clear plastic is worth around $1.20 per pound, and opaque plastic is worth about $0.50 per pound, depending on your location.
It takes about 19 (20-ounce) clear plastic beverage bottles to make a pound. So in this case, you’d need 317 bottles to earn $20.
Glass pays around $0.10 per pound, which is significantly less than plastic and aluminum. But glass is also heavier, so you don’t need to collect nearly as much to make the same payout.
For example, a 12-ounce glass bottle weighs roughly 180 to 200 grams. If I collected only the lightest bottles, I still only need 2.5 bottles to make a pound. So collecting 500 of the same bottles gets me $20, about half as many aluminum cans as I’d need to get the same amount.
To find recycling centers that pay, search online at Earth911 or RecyclingCenters.org.
You can make even more by selling wine bottles to crafters. Scrub the empty bottles clean (leave the labels on) and collect them in lots of 10 or 12. Then list them for sale on a site like eBay.
You can typically sell wine bottles for at least $0.50 each. But fancier bottles, such as cobalt blue bottles, go for as much as $5 each. So if you have any of these, skip the bottle deposit altogether, and head straight to eBay.
5. Scrap Metal
All nonferrous (doesn’t contain iron) scrap metal, like aluminum, copper, bronze, or brass, is highly valuable, fetching anywhere from $0.80 to $3 per pound.
You can find valuable metal in lots of old “junk” destined for the scrap heap, including:
- Appliances. Large appliances, such as your refrigerator, dryer, washer, dishwasher, and oven, are excellent sources of scrap metal. They contain aluminum framing and thin sheets of steel.
- Copper Pipes and Wires. Copper tubing is highly valuable, depending on the type. If you have any left over from a home improvement project in the kitchen or bathroom or an electrical wiring job, take it to a scrap dealer.
- Sinks and Faucets. If you’ve upgraded sinks or faucets, don’t throw the old ones in the trash. If they’re made of stainless steel, gold, brass, or brushed nickel, they’re recyclable for cash.
- Cookware. As long as your cookware is copper, aluminum, stainless steel, or cast iron, you can recycle it. However, if it has a nonstick coating, you generally can’t recycle it.
- Computers. If your computer is too old to get a trade-in deal on a new one, you may still be able to recycle it for cash. Besides the copper tubing, computers have other metal parts, such as aluminum casings and gold on the circuit board.
- Aluminum Lawn Furniture. The metal in any outdoor aluminum furniture — such as lawn chairs, patio chairs, or loungers — is recyclable for cash.
Take any scrap metal you find to your nearest scrap yard or scrap metal dealer, which you can find by doing an internet search. Then call around to find out what they take, what’s required to prep and sell your scrap metal, and what their payout rates are.
Alternatively, use a website like Scrap Monster or an app like iScrap App, which lets you compare what each scrap yard offers.
Many local energy suppliers offer recycling programs for refrigerators and freezers that no longer work in exchange for cash. Typically, they pick up your defunct appliance and leave you with some extra cash in hand.
Call or search your regional energy supplier’s website to discover whether they offer that kind of program.
Alternatively, visit the Appliance Recycling Centers of America’s appliance recycling webpage. It serves utility companies in nearly half the U.S. Clicking on the map on their site lets you see programs by state.
Have a rusted old car not worth selling or trading in? Even if it’s broken beyond repair, it’s still worth cash to a junkyard. That’s because vehicles contain valuable scrap metal and parts.
Call your local junkyard to get a quote or try these national car recyclers:
Just enter your vehicle information on the site for an instant quote. They’ll come haul it away and give you a check or cash on the spot.
8. Car Seats
You can’t resell a damaged or expired car seat. But that doesn’t mean it can’t score you a sweet reward — which is nice considering you probably shelled out a couple hundred bucks for it in the first place.
Twice per year, you can head to Target’s car seat trade-in event. Target accepts all types of car seats for recycling, including infant seats, convertible seats, car seat bases, and booster seats. Plus, they take seats in any condition, including expired ones.
In exchange, Target gives you a 20% discount off select baby gear, including new car seats, car seat bases, travel systems, strollers, play yards, high chairs, swings, rockers, or bouncers.
9. Kids Toys
Kids collect a lot of stuff over the years. Making matters worse, they often play with toys for a short while and then abandon them for the next new thing. Although you can resell or donate toys that are still in good condition, there’s typically not much you can do with broken toys or incomplete games except toss them in the trash.
Fortunately, you can recycle toys and games for TerraCycle points with these manufacturers:
- Spin Master. Send in any of your Spin Master toys and games (except Kinetic Sand and Orbeez) to the Spin Master recycling program.
- VTech and LeapFrog. The VTech and LeapFrog recycling program accepts all VTech and LeapFrog electronic learning devices and electronic toys.
10. Ink Cartridges & Toner
You likely already recycle your ink cartridges, especially if they come with a handy prepaid mail-in envelope like mine do. But it’s possible to do more than a good deed. You can get rewards for recycling your ink cartridges. And if you work with a copy machine, which uses a toner cartridge, many companies will pay you to recycle those as well.
That’s because recycling ink and toner cartridges makes good business sense. Companies don’t have to spend a ton of money making new cartridges. They simply refurbish and refill the old ones. That incentivizes them to reward you for returning them. It’s a win all around.
To recycle your ink and toner cartridges for money or rewards, visit:
- Staples. Staples Rewards members earn $2 cash back in Staples Rewards on every recycled ink or toner cartridge, up to 10 per month for base members and 20 per month for premier members. Members must spend a minimum of $30 at Staples within 180 days to qualify.
- Office Depot and OfficeMax. Office Depot and OfficeMax Rewards members earn $2 cash back in rewards for every recycled ink or toner cartridge up to a maximum of 10 per month. Members must spend a minimum of $10 per month at Office Depot or OfficeMax to qualify.
- TonerBuyer.com. Sell your empty ink cartridges to TonerBuyer.com for up to $5 each, depending on your printer model.
- Need Empty. If you’ve collected a large quantity of ink cartridges (100 or more) or toner cartridges (50 or more), Need Empty recycles in bulk for cash. If that seems like a lot for one person to collect, they offer a fundraising program, an easy way for schools, clubs, and organizations to raise money.
11. Packing Materials
If you recently moved or get a lot of deliveries, don’t toss your boxes. Recycle them for cash. How much you can get for them depends on their size and condition, but generally, you can earn from $0.50 to $2 per box.
The best places to recycle your boxes for cash include:
- BoxCycle. The resale site BoxCycle allows you to list your lightly used cardboard boxes for sale. It also recycles other packing materials like wood pallets and mailers.
- Boxsmart. Sell your used cardboard in any condition directly to Boxsmart. They sort and resell anything in good condition and recycle the rest.
12. Holiday Lights
You may struggle with the age-old frustration of unraveling tangled light strings every year. But one thing you don’t have to worry about is what to do with the nonworking ones.
Whether they’re LEDs or old-fashioned incandescents, you can recycle that string of holiday lights for a discount toward the purchase of a new one.
Just send your broken lights to:
- HolidayLEDs. HolidayLEDs’ recycling program accepts all types of holiday lights, in any condition, for recycling. Just fill out the online form, pack them up, and ship them. In return, you’ll get a coupon good toward purchasing new lights.
- Christmas Light Source. Ship your old lights to Christmas Light Source’s recycling program, and get a coupon for 10% off the purchase of new lights. Plus, the proceeds from recycling your old lights buy charitable donations for Toys for Tots.
13. Wine Corks
Next time you’re tempted to toss a wine cork in the trash, hang onto it instead. There are plenty of people willing to pay money for your used corks.
Crafters and artisans turn corks into various crafts, such as coasters, message boards, trivets, mats, wall art, and flooring.
To make the most money from recycling your corks, wait until you’ve amassed a significant amount. Then list them on a site like eBay, where they typically sell in lots as few as 20 or as many as 500. Corks generally go for about $0.10 each.
14. Everything Else
If you live in a city or area with a waste hauler that’s partnered with Recyclebank, you can earn rewards for recycling anything.
Recyclebank advertises itself as a frequent flyer program for recycling. Essentially, the more you recycle, the more points you earn. You can then redeem those points for discounts at local or national retailers or online.
All you need to do to earn points is register for an account, get a code for your recycling bin, and report your recycling activity.
If your community waste hauler doesn’t currently participate, you can still earn points in other ways, from doing things like saving energy at home to reading about how you can help save the planet. But you can also contact your local government and tell them about all the benefits.
Recycling common household items like used electronics for cash or rewards can help the planet and your wallet. But you won’t be able to reduce your carbon footprint or pad your bank account if you don’t properly prepare your recyclables according to the program’s rules.
So before you haul or mail your household goods to a retail recycler, read all the fine print. Some stores request that you rinse bottles, remove bottle caps, or tie cardboard into bales. And some goods you can’t recycle at all, like wet cardboard.
The guidelines are in place for a reason. If they can’t recycle it, it becomes their responsibility to throw it away, which they won’t pay you for. So to ensure you get your reward, follow all the instructions.