Recycle for Profit – Turning Trash Into Gold

The importance of recycling has been stressed time and again as it is crucial for maintaining a sustainable environment and combating climate change. However, recycling is not just beneficial for the planet; it can also help you make a profit. This article will provide a comprehensive guide on items you can recycle for profit, highlighting the why’s and how’s of the process.

Profit from Metal recycling

Aluminum Cans

One of the most popular items recycled for money is aluminum cans. After consumption, they can be gathered, crushed, and taken to a local recycling center or scrap yard. The price you’ll get per pound can vary based on the market, but with enough volume, it can add up.


Copper is highly valuable and can be found in numerous items like pipes, wiring, and old electronics. It fetches a high price at scrap yards due to its utility in various industries.


Used in many construction and manufacturing processes, steel can be found in old appliances, cars, and even in tin cans. While it doesn’t bring in as much as copper or aluminum, recycling steel can still be profitable given its prevalence.

Profit from E-Waste recycling

Cell Phones

Old cell phones contain precious metals like gold, silver, and copper that can be recovered and recycled. There are numerous online platforms and local recycling facilities that buy old cell phones.


Despite their complex make-up, computers have many recyclable parts. They contain valuable metals like gold in their processors and motherboards. However, be sure to wipe all personal data from your computer before recycling.

Ink Cartridges

These are often discarded after use, but many office supply stores and online platforms offer buy-back programs for used cartridges.

Car Batteries

These are an excellent source of recyclable material, particularly lead and plastic. Lead-acid batteries, commonly used in cars, are the most recycled product in the United States, with a recycling rate of over 99% according to the Battery Council.

Other materials to recycle for profit

Cooking Oil

Used cooking oil is a valuable resource and can be converted into biodiesel, a clean-burning, biodegradable fuel. Biodiesel is often used in commercial vehicles and fleets, creating a substantial market for recycled cooking oil. The profitability of recycling cooking oil depends largely on the volume you can collect and the current market price of biodiesel.


Glass recycling is prevalent in many countries. You can collect and return glass bottles and jars for a deposit. The rate varies from place to place, but every bottle counts.

Plastic Bottles

In some states and countries, you can get cash back for recycling plastic bottles. The deposit system works similar to glass bottles. However, be sure to check the types of plastic accepted for recycling, as not all types are recyclable.

Cardboard and Paper

Though not as profitable as metals or electronics, recycling large amounts of cardboard and paper can earn you some money. Many recycling centers pay for paper and cardboard by the ton. This could be particularly profitable for businesses that have large quantities of these materials.


Old clothes, especially if they’re in good condition, can be sold to thrift stores or online on platforms like Poshmark or eBay. Even damaged textiles can be recycled and sold as industrial rags, insulation, or stuffing.

Car Parts

Apart from batteries, there are other parts of a vehicle that can be recycled and sold for profit. These include catalytic converters, tires, and certain metal parts.

Wine Corks

Believe it or not, there’s a market for used wine corks. They’re used in crafting and DIY projects and can be sold in bulk online.

Wooden Pallets

Often used for shipping large items, wooden pallets can be collected and sold to pallet recycling companies.

Cooking Grease

Similar to cooking oil, cooking grease can be sold to biofuel companies that convert it into biodiesel.

Christmas Trees

Some recycling centers will pay for used Christmas trees, which can be turned into mulch.

Construction Waste

If you’re in the construction business or planning a remodel, consider recycling concrete, wood, metal, and cardboard. Some recycling centers pay for these materials, and it can cut down on disposal costs.

Precious Metals

If you come across old jewelry or objects made from gold, silver, or platinum, these can be sold to certain recyclers or jewelers.

First steps to start Recycling for Profit


The first step is collection. You could start by saving your recyclables at home. Over time, you could expand to collect from neighbors, local businesses, or through community clean-up events.


The next step is to sort your collected items according to their type: aluminum, plastic, paper, etc. This makes it easier for you to account for what you have and for the recycling center to process them.

Find a Recycling Center

Look for a local recycling center or scrap yard that will buy your sorted recyclables. Rates vary based on location and market prices.


Finally, sell your recyclables to the recycling center. Remember, you’re not going to get rich quick, but over time, the money can add up.

Earnings estimations from a recycling business

The earning potential from a recycling business can vary significantly based on several factors including the scale of your operation, the materials you are recycling, and the region you are located in. In general, recycling businesses can be highly profitable, but start-up costs, operational expenses, and fluctuating market prices for recyclable materials must be considered.

1. Scale

Smaller-scale recycling businesses, like can or bottle redemption centers, can bring in anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000 per year, depending on the volume they handle. For larger-scale operations that deal with scrap metal, electronics, or other higher-value materials, profits can reach into the millions of dollars.

2. Materials

The type of materials your business recycles will also greatly impact your profits. Metals like copper and aluminum are more valuable than paper or plastic. E-waste recycling can also be lucrative due to the precious metals found in electronics.

3. Location

The region in which you operate plays a significant role in determining your earnings. Regions with strong recycling programs and high demand for recycled materials tend to be more profitable.

4. Business Model

The profitability of a recycling business also heavily relies on its business model. Whether you’re a waste collection service, a recycling facility, or a product manufacturer using recycled materials will significantly impact your earnings.

Remember that while the potential for profit in a recycling business is significant, so are the challenges. The recycling industry is subject to fluctuations in commodity prices, changes in legislation, and environmental considerations. Therefore, proper planning and good business acumen are crucial to success.

Moreover, while the financial aspect is essential, the ultimate goal of any recycling business should be to contribute to environmental sustainability. The financial returns are a bonus that comes with doing your part to ensure a healthier planet for future generations.

Final thoughts

Recycling for profit is a brilliant way to reduce waste and contribute to environmental sustainability while also earning some extra cash. Keep in mind, however, that the profitability of recycling often depends on the current market prices of materials. Also, before embarking on your recycling journey, check local regulations, as some jurisdictions have specific rules about recycling for profit.