How to Save Money While Recycling

How to Save Money While Recycling
Written by Oana Schneider

According to US Environmental Protection Agency, Americans generated about 251 million tons of trash or garbage. Only 87 million tons of this material was composted and recycled, leaving 164 tons of trash ending up in landfills. This just goes to show how important it is to learn how to recycle.

If we can reduce our trash or garbage production even by half, a lot of space will be freed up and the environment will not experience as much harm. In the next sections, we will take a look at how much trash we throw away on an annual basis – and dish out tips on how to recycle, and how to make money while you’re at it. 

Quick Stats about Recycling 

According to and other resources, here’s how much we actually throw away on an annual basis:

  • 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps
  • 100 billion plastic grocery bags
  • 190 billion sodas, juice drinks and other beverages in plastic, glass or aluminum containers
  • 40% of all food consumed in the US
  • 2 billion tons or almost half of all the food produced in the world
  • 30% to 40% of the food supply in the US
  • 65 pounds of clothing per year for every person
  • 4 million pounds of material to provide the average American family their needs for one year (waste from industry moves, mines, extracts, burns, shovels, wastes, pumps and disposes)
  • 76 million metric tons of retail waste
  • 92 metric tons of distribution waste

There’s more. There are 1,900 landfills across the US, a number which has increased since the 1960s. For 2010, about one-third or roughly 250 million tons of total municipal solid waste was recovered for recycling. Interestingly enough, the percentage of paper products and metals recycled is particularly high. Check out this list:

  • Lead has a high recycling rate of about 795, being the most recycled metal in 2010.
  • Iron and steel have recycling rates of around 72% for the same year. Iron and steel crap amounted to 60 million metric tons or almost $2 billion.
How to Save Money While Recycling

Turn Old Object into Adorable Decorations!

Finally, according to, here are the facts on recycling in the US:

  • US municipal solid waste generation = 250.9 million tons
  • US municipal solid waste discards = 135.1 million tons
  • US municipal solid waste = 66.2 million tons
  • Paper and paperboard recovered from municipal solid waste in the US = 45,900 tons
  • Gross recycling rate of bottles in the US = 29.1%
  • US recycling rate of lead acid batteries = 95.9%
  • Value of aluminium recycled from scrap = $7,950 million
  • Revenue of US solid waste industry = $55 billion
  • Projected size of US market for waste management by 2020 = $129 billion

Ways to Save Money While Recycling

Based from the above figures, it’s easy to see just how much stuff ends up thrown away as garbage and placed on landfills. If you would like to do your share in helping save the environment, how about making some money while recycling? Whether it’s a big or a small household that you have, you are bound to accumulate a lot of trash, waste or garbage over the course of one week. You can help save the environment by reducing your household’s waste production – and even make money while recycling. Here are a few ways on how you can do just that:

1. Scour your local area for establishments which offer vouchers.

The federal and state governments offer residents perks when they recycle. For instance, there are cities or towns which offer locals vouchers for recycling. For every certain amount of stuff that you recycle, you will be given vouchers which you can use at restaurants or stores in your area. What better encouragement is there for you to recycle than having the chance to eat for free or at discounted rates in your favorite local hangouts?

2. Check out the option for making a deposit on recyclable bottles and cans.

Again, state and local governments do encourage residents to recycle – so you might as well do your part and save money in the process. There are states in the US which implement a deposit on recyclable bottles or cans. For instance, people from Michigan are charged a $0.10 deposit for every can or bottle that they buy. If you purchase three six packs of beer, you will get the $1.80 when you recycle all18 bottles. This will definitely get you a lot of money in the long run if you go through cases of glass bottles and cans of drinks.

3. Save money on wardrobe by shopping for vintage items or thrift store finds.

Each person in the US throws away 65 pounds of clothes every year. Since clothes take a long time to integrate, you will help the environment a lot by shopping for vintage items or thrift store finds. Thrift stores and charity shops sell still usable clothes at a fraction of the price offered at malls or designer stores. If you’re lucky, you might find items with the tag still on it so it will seem as if you are buying them brand new.

4. Look for ways to reuse fabric.

Next, look for ways to reuse fabric. If you have old clothes, towels or coveralls which you do not use anymore, use them as rags to mop the floor with or wash your car with. Turn old jeans into cut-off shirts, t-shirts into bags – there are plenty of DIY projects that you can search for online which center on ways to reuse old fabric.

5. Recycle paper.

What about good old paper? If you have kids or if you have an office right at your home, you will go through bond paper by the ream. Make it a rule in the house to always use the back of the paper when printing. Don’t print unless you really have to. After every school year, go through all the paper material that you used and check on a recycling facility in your area about your recycling options. A better rule to follow, however, is to use the least amount of paper that you can in order to save trees and not have to recycle in the first place.  

How to Save Money While Recycling

Teach Your Kids to Protect the Environment!

6. Reuse containers and boxes.

There are plenty of items bought from the grocery store or supermarket which come in cute jars and containers. Instead of throwing them away, reuse them to store other food items in the kitchen.

If you love baking, use baby food jar as storage for cookies. Those who love cooking can make sauces, jams or food preserves with containers which were previously used. Just make sure to clean the glass jars thoroughly and sterilize, if necessary, especially if you are storing food preserves like jam. As for boxes, you can repaint them and use as organizers for different rooms in the house, or use them as storage boxes for moving.

The internet is filled with a lot of videos that teaches how to make your own items or craft projects where you can use glass jars, boxes and other containers so you don’t have to throw them away.

7. Recycle aluminum and other metals.

Aluminum, when made entirely from raw materials, can be quite expensive. If people did not recycle aluminum, it would take a lot of energy and expensive raw materials to produce them. As such, it is a must to still recycle aluminum even if you get a minimal amount for it. Just because you won’t get paid a significant amount for the items that you can recycle does not mean that you have to skip it entirely.

Remember that you are doing the recycling for the environment and for the future generations, so exert the extra effort. The same thing holds true for other metals like iron, copper and steel. You can bring the metal to a scrap dealer who will typically pay cash for them depending on weight or volume.

8. Save money on your grocery bills.

If 40% of all food in the US is being wasted, it means that people do not consume almost half of the food items they buy – be it grocery items or cooked food from restaurants. When doing your grocery shopping, make sure to buy just enough perishable items so you don’t end up wasting them. In the process, you will save up on your household budget, too.

Another way to help save the environment and eliminate food wastage is by making a compost. Kitchen wastes which are biodegradable like vegetable or fruit peels, egg shells, coffee grounds – all these can be placed in a compost which can be used as natural fertilizer for plants in your garden.

9. Sell your extra stuff online.

It’s practically human instinct to buy extra stuff – even items that you don’t need or you will not really use on a long-term basis. Do an inventory of your room and your household. Which things can you sell online to eliminate clutter? Clean out your closet and  organize your clothes so that you can donate the items you don’t need anymore, and sell ones which can still be used by other people.

If the clothes still have tags on them and you haven’t worn them in a year, sell them. Sites like eBay, GumTree or Craigslist will help you find buyers for the things that you don’t need anymore.

10. Create new items from old stuff.

Finally, you can make money while recycling by salvaging usable items from dump off places. You can create new items from old stuff that you can find at local garbage facilities, dumpsters in your area, thrift stores, garage sales, etc.

With these tips, you can save money while recycling and doing your share in helping save the environment at the same time.

About the author

Oana Schneider

Oana Schneider is a published author located in Chicago, Illinois, who currently works for as a communication specialist and blog editor. She writes about lifestyle, family budget, has a degree in Communications and advocates for women’s rights. Her future plans include getting a Labrador and losing a few pounds.


  • Thrift stores and recycling centers, that’s what I always do. There’s absolutely no reason why a person wouldn’t recycle and send his stuff to a center to make beer money, aside from being short on time- but even then it’s so easy to segregate and just drive there. Thrift stores are a godsend if you’re on a tight budget, because there are still some very fashionable items over there, but you just might want to dig a little deeper.

    • Not all households consume that much plastic or aluminum cans, though, so it doesn’t make sense to recycle containers for a couple bucks per month. It makes no sense from a time standpoint either. Therefore, recycling centers aren’t a money maker for all households. It’s only worthwhile for heavy consumers.

  • You should always sell the old items that you have lying around that are no longer useful. This especially applies to consumer electronics above all else because they’re often worth a decent amount of money. Either way, you should try to sell or recycle things rather than simply throwing them away because that’s such a waste.

  • I can’t believe that 40% of all food consumed in America is thrown away! That seems incredibly wasteful. My parents grew up quite poor so as kids we were always encouraged to never waste food. I can’t believe that people throw away so much when there are so many people starving!

    I always recycle bottles, cans and paper and all the old clothes go to charity. I don’t particularly make any money from this or save any, but it would be harmful for the environment and wasteful otherwise. This may not be enough encouragement for everyone though so I’m glad that there are vouchers and such which do give incentives for recycling!

  • In the past, I would always have recycled without even having to stop to think about the different schemes that were on offer. Now, I know that if there are certain things that I wish to recycle, I am able to get money for doing so, which is just great for me. So you should always have a look around your local area to see if there is a similar scheme that you could join, too. I also get my clothes weighed in for money at the moment, and then they go to a charity shop which I think is even better than just donating them for nothing. You should always try to make or save money whenever you can, as every little cent helps when you’re trying to save up for something or cut back on your spending.

  • By recycling plastic, we not only make some money, we do the environment a great deal of service. Plastic doesn’t deteriorate easily and hence poses environmental hazards Recycling is a good way to cut down the risks. While we make some spare cash, we really do a great service, if we spend that much of effort.

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