How To Turn Your Trash Into Cash (Seriously!)

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could get full value for all the stuff you buy, and then also get paid for the waste left behind? Well, you can. We’ve answered the age-old question of how to turn your trash into cash.

Recycling is big business, and sometimes it can help to be a bit imaginative in the way that you recycle. It’s not all about separating cardboard from glass – with a bit of clever thinking, you can make money from your recycling efforts. There’s nothing better than getting paid to do the right thing.

1. Aluminum Cans.

Recycling aluminum cans is one of the most popular ways for people to make money from their trash. Kids do it a lot, but there’s no reason why adults can’t hang onto their aluminum cans and build up a decent stockpile over a period of a year or two. You’re paid on weight, so you can crush the cans up to save space, and store them in something easy to transport such as a milk crate.

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Aluminum cans typically fetch around 50c per pound, with about 34 cans weighing a pound. So, it’s not great money, but it’s pretty good for something that takes zero effort. If you’re using aluminum can products anyway, why not make some cash off the empties?

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Search on the Alcoa website to find a nearby recycling center.

2. Cardboard Boxes.

People are always moving house, putting things into storage, or simply sorting out their clutter. Websites such as BoxCycle allow people to advertise their spare boxes for other people to purchase. All you have to do is hang onto your boxes, wait for someone to buy them, and be around when they come to pick them up.

3. Cooking Oil.

There are many companies that will pay around $1 per gallon of used cooking oil. If you’re deep frying a lot of stuff, this can be a great way to get a bit of cash back off your used oil. If you happen to know a restaurant or café owner, then you could offer to remove their waste oil for free, and sell it for your own profit.

4. Electronics.

Many people upgrade their phone or computer every year and simply throw away their old device. You can get good money selling your used gadgets online through services such as Gazelle. You simply create an account, list your devices, and send it off for free – they provide pre-paid envelopes.

5. Junk Mail.

Some research organisations will pay you for your junk mail. You can sign up to one of these of services, such as the Small Business Knowledge Center, and regularly send in any junk mail that’s relevant to credit, telecommunications, insurance, banking, financial, travel and more.

These services usually pay on a points based system, where points can be redeemed for gift cards with major stores.

6. Receipts.

Much like your junk mail, receipts are a valuable commodity for market research. Data is big money, and a great way of obtaining information about consumer shopping habits is by purchasing their receipts.

There are a range of apps that you can use to upload your receipts in exchange for money or redeemable points. Some of these are listed below.

Checkout 51: This service works on the purchase of particular items. Each week, a new list of special offers is uploaded. Once you buy them, you simply have to take a picture of your receipt. When you do this, you earn a small amount of money. Once you’ve hit $20, you can start withdrawing.

GrouponSnap: GrouponSnap is very similar to Checkout51, just with a different range of offers. You can also earn an additional $1 for each friend that you refer to the service, so with a few likeminded friends you can quickly hit the $20 minimum to pull money out.

Ibotta: With this one, you’ll be required to complete some tasks related to your favourite brands and product types before heading out to shop. Once you’ve completed your shopping trip, you take a picture of your receipt and upload it. This service differs to the others in that it pays through PayPal, rather than via cheque, and you can start withdrawing once you hit $5.

Receipt Hog: This allows you to input receipts from basically any outlet, such as restaurants, pet stores and grocery stores. You simply upload an image of your receipts, and receive a certain of number of virtual coins relative to the amount you’ve spent according to your receipt. There is no limit to the number of receipts you can upload, and you can trade the virtual coins for actual cash to withdraw via PayPal, or Amazon gift cards.

7. Reclaimed Wood.

Certain types of wood, such as maple, white oak, walnut and hickory are worth quite a bit of cash. If you’re remodelling your home, working on a building demolition, or knocking down an old shed, consider checking out the value of your wood. Services such as Antique Beams and Boards will pay you based on the dimensions of the wood you have, and the quality.

8. Scrap Metal.

Aluminum isn’t the only scrap metal that’s worth decent money. Anything that contains metal stands a good chance of having decent value. Services such as will provide a fair quote based on the materials you have. Old barbecues, cars, filing cabinets and white goods are a great source of scrap metal.

Copper can fetch a decent price. Old water heating units, wiring, pipes and decorative items can contain a large amount of valuable copper.

9. Used Ink Cartridges.

Services such as the eCycle Group will pay top dollar for used ink cartridges. They require a minimum of 20 items at a time, which isn’t too difficult to achieve if you work from home or simply save up over a long period.

The process is as simple as going to their website, checking out the listed prices they have, and sending your cartridges in and receiving a check in exchange.

10. Wine Corks.

Enjoy a good drop? Many of us do. What most of us don’t do, however, is recycle our wine corks. Some places, like Yemm and Hart, will pay around 1c-2c for each wine cork. The only issue is, they take a minimum amount of around 14 pounds, so you’ll need to save up over quite a few drinks.

Recycling is great for both the environment and your bank account. Keep an eye out for other ways to turn your trash into cash – there’s a market for everything!

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