Cash for Trash: Making Money Recycling

Photo: Jody McIntyre

Want to “go green” and make some money while you're at it? It's possible. You won't exactly get rich doing it, but I certainly wouldn't say no to making some extra cash — especially for recycling, which is kind to the environment. (See also: 10 Easy Ways to Be Nicer to the Environment — and Your Wallet)

A while back, Elizabeth put together a list of ways to make money recycling, which outlines some websites that will pay you to recycle various items from electronics to ink cartridges to cardboard boxes to golf balls. Here are more websites, businesses, and programs that pay you for recycling a variety of goods that you can't otherwise recycle yourself. It's a win-win situation; your stuff stays out of landfills, and you get paid to recycle it.

Most (if not all) of the online companies will pay for your shipping expenses by either emailing you a pre-paid shipping label to print, or by sending you an addressed box in which to ship your recyclables. Many also have charitable status and will issue you a tax-deductible receipt instead of a cash payment.

Cell Phones

Cell phone recycling led the way in the now burgeoning industry of getting paid to recycle. Most of these companies will refurbish your phone and redistribute it by selling or donating it to non-profit organizations or consumers (local or overseas). Some will require your charger or other accessories, while others don't.

Some companies will even pay you for a cell phone that doesn't work any more, but if they don't, they usually still pay for shipping and accept broken phones to recycle them responsibly.

There doesn't seem to be a standard rate for any make or model of phone, so do a little comparison shopping to get the most for your recyclables.

Sell iPhone for Cash

A Wise Bread reader recommended Sell iPhone for Cash. List the model of your iPhone and what condition it's in (including whether you have power cords or other accessories), and they'll give you a free shipping sticker and a box too, if you want one. They send a check within 30 days.

Pace Butler

Pace Butler has been around forever and will quickly send you a check for your phone (within four days of receipt and inspection).

Simply Sellular

Your phone must be in working condition. Simply Sellular will pay within 45 days of receipt and inspection of your phone.


There are no selling fees, shipping costs or haggling involved when you sell your old phone through uSell. If you accept an offer from one of uSell's professional buyers, the company will send you a pre-paid shipping kit, and the buyer will send your payment via PayPal or check within 5 days of receiving your device.


If you don't want to deal with the hassle of shipping, you can drop off your cell phone (or tablet or mp3 player) at an ecoATM kiosk located in malls across the U.S. The machine will examine your device and give you a quote based on the model, condition, and current market value. If you agree to sell it, you'll get cash on the spot.

Other Electronics

Cell phones are just the start. What about recycling the other electronics we have that we can't dispose of in an environmentally friendly way on our own? Similar to cell phones, your device usually needs to be working for you to get paid; if not they'll still pay for shipping and will recycle it responsibly.

Electronics for Cash

Electronics for Cash recycles Mp3 players, video game systems, digital cameras, computer monitors, HDTV screens, laptops, GPS devices, and phones.

My Laptop Broke

Wise Bread readers have had good fortune with My Laptop Broke. List your laptop (they're looking for any make and model, and don't care if it's broken), get a quote, then they'll send you a self-addressed stamped box. Send your laptop to them, and they'll pay you via PayPal or check. The overall process takes 2-3 weeks.


GreenBuyback accepts cell phones and other electronics, including tablets, laptops, gaming consoles, wearable technology, and more. Select your device, get a quote, and send it in with the prepaid shipping label they'll provide to you. The best part? GreenBuyback will take your old electronics in any conditon.

Furniture, Clothing, and Sporting Goods

In another article, I outline a few ways to recycle your clothes and shoes (and more!). But don't forget about your local consignment shop if you want to make some extra cash. Your wardrobe or garage full of unused sports equipment might be useless to you, but it could be treasure to somebody else. In a consignment shop, you set the asking price, and when the item sells, the shop takes a commission and gives you the rest.

Curbside Items: Recyclebank

Recyclebank is in a category all its own because it's quite a comprehensive rewards program for recycling and adopting other environmentally friendly habits (and it looks like fun too!). You get reward points for doing a variety of “green” things such as switching from bottled water or bringing a reusable coffee mug from home when you buy coffee.

I also really like their Home Recycling program; you receive a special recycling cart (no sorting required), and your recyclables are picked up by their special carriers. You are rewarded points by weight of how much you recycle. Recyclebank points are convertible into gift certificates for a number of retailers and restaurants. So while you don't get paid in cash, you can subsidize some of your normal expenses with the certificates (or even treat yourself to something nice as a reward for your hard work).

Bottles, Cans, and More

One crafty Wise Bread reader mentioned that they get paid for taking soda cans to a local recycling center, and they are paid based on weight and the current price of aluminum. You can also do this with bottles, scrap metal, and a variety of other things. is a comprehensive resource for recycling all sorts of things from bottles and cans to electronics to paint, hazardous materials, and more. Some centers will pay for your recyclables, while others simply promise to take materials off your hands to dispose of them responsibly. You can easily search for recycling centers near you with this site.

Do you get paid to recycle? If so, how? 

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Meg Favreau's picture

Recyclebank came to Philadelphia shortly before I moved, and I was bummed that I never got to try it. It seems like a really neat program.

I had a few friends in college who would collect cans around campus and redeem them for cash -- it wasn't wildly lucrative, but it gave them some extra spending cash.

Guest's picture

In my country, people can redeem empty bottles for food. The government gets empty bottles for recycling purpose. And the people get food they need. It's a win-win situation.

Guest's picture

Thanks for the tips. I think recycle everything I can. What is really cool is that some of my habits are starting to rub off my friends especially when I mention that I made a little money. That always gets their attention.