Going green can be expensive. Some people spend an average of $8 to $20 each month for curbside recycling, on top of your regular trash bills. Some dumps charge around $5 for accepting junk, particularly if you live out of the dumps' jurisdiction. Sorting your trash, cleaning out old bottles, and learning all the do's and don'ts of your local recycling programs may be great for the environment, but it's time consuming, costly, not fun and provides no immediate return for your time and effort.
Any time you have a recyclable, look for a way to monetize it. There are many websites and places in your city that will pay you cash for your recyclables. They don't do it to be nice; they're making a profit by reselling your stuff to a higher bidder or by refurbishing it and making it salable. Buy hey, if you can benefit from their business model, why not?
Here's how we generated over $200 easily, by recycling common items we had around the house:
1. Ink Cartridges
Gather old ink cartridges and recycle them at Staples, which pays $3 in store credit per ink or toner cartridge. You have to be a member of Staples Rewards, but it's free to join. If you have an inkjet printer that uses six different colors, you’ll earn $18 when you need to replace your ink.
2. Recycle Electronics.
Recycle your old cell phone and electronics. Read our article on the topic to learn how; the average payout is $100.
3. DVD/CD Cases
If you've put all your DVDs and CDs into binders or other storage systems, you probably have hundreds of old cases lying around. Rather than chucking them into the landfill (where they won't degrade), put them on Craigslist. Musicians, videographers, and filmmakers will happily take them off your hands. Sell a lot at once for the best return. The current going rate is about $30 to $50 for 100 cases; if you have more or less, negotiate your own rate. We sold a whole lot of them and made $60.50!
4. Sell Old CDs and DVDs
Sell your old CDs and DVDs to SecondSpin.com, which will buy your unwanted discs and video games in return for cash (or store credit—your choice). Prices vary based on the popularity and rarity of the item you're selling. We recently sold three seasons of Frasier, two seasons of Seinfeld, and three CDs for a total of $22.50.
5. Recycle Your Scrap Metal
A quick look in the Yellow Pages under "Metal" or "Recycling" will give you a listing of metal recyclers in your city (most cities have at least one, if not more). These companies typically take anything made of metal, including aluminum cans, old appliances, bikes, car parts, metal tools, metal wiring, etc. Payment is based on the market value of the metal and how many pounds you have, so it fluctuates constantly. We brought in a broken bike, a plastic tub full of aluminum cans, a broken toaster oven, some cake pans, an iron skillet we no longer use, and a decomposing push mower. Total payment at the scrap yard: $17.
That’s how we made a quick $100 with little effort and big benefits for the environment. Recap:
Ink Cartridges: $18
Old cell phone: $100
DVD/CD Cases: $60.50
CDs, DVDs, video games: $22.50
Old metal: $17
It's not hard to turn your waste into money; you just have to look for the people and places who will pay you for your junk. It beats schlepping to the dump or paying a curbside service. Anyway, those very same curbside recyclers and dumps will still sell your stuff to higher bidders. By monetizing your recyclables yourself, you're getting to keep the profit, rather than letting someone else profit from your items.