How to make money from recycling

We all know recycling is good for the environment – at least compared with sending household waste to the landfill site – but some people take it a step beyond altruism and recycle as a way of making money too.

There’s nothing wrong with recycling for profit, as you still achieve all the same benefits for the environment, and might even be able to do more to keep your neighbourhood clean when there’s some money in it for you.

Here are five of the main types of recyclable waste that can be turned into a profit – or at least, into money that you would not have if you simply threw them away.


Empty drinks cans and food tins are a great place to start, as you’ll probably be able to get your hands on a good number of these and the facilities to sell them for recycling are well established.

The price changes over time, but you’ll usually find a kilo of empty drinks cans will be worth about 50p – that’s around 1p per can, but it’s directly scalable the more you have to trade in.

Scrap metal dealers and specialist recycling centres will both usually make you an offer to give you cash for aluminium drinks cans, making this an easy option in most urban areas.


Like aluminium cans, facilities to sell clothes for recycling are fairly well established in most towns and cities across the UK, so there’s a good chance of finding somewhere local that will take your unwanted clothes.

Again the price paid is usually measured by the kilo, and often the clothing must be clean but dry – you can’t get away with adding to the weight by trading in wet clothes!

The fibres from old clothing can be reused in a variety of ways, and are often shredded to make insulation material and furniture stuffing.

Ink Cartridges

You might not realise ink cartridges can be recycled, but there are several services out there that actually pay you cash to send in your empty printer ink cartridges.

The cartridge is then dismantled and recycled so that all of its component parts find a new lease of life.

Although many printer manufacturers offer a free service to mail back your empty cartridges, they don’t usually pay you for them, and while this won’t turn a profit overall, it helps with the cost of new ink.

Mobile Phones

Again, you probably won’t be able to make a profit by trading in old mobile phones for recycling, but if you have old handsets lying around and want rid of them, it’s an ethical and practical option.

You’ll get more for a handset in working condition, and especially if the screen is in good condition too, as often they are not recycled but are directly reused for charities or shipped to developing countries for use there.

Other Items

The sky’s the limit when it comes to recycling household items, so don’t be afraid to try your luck with materials not listed here.

Everything from foil milk bottle tops to used wine corks has been known to sell in bulk on online auction sites.

Likewise, if your garden waste produces good quantities of compost, you might find a local market for this if there’s too much of it to use on your own flowerbeds.

The old adage says one person’s trash is another’s treasure – so before you throw it out, give some thought to whether or not you might be able to sell it on for a tidy sum.