13 Household Items You Can Get Paid to Recycle
If you don’t have any spare tools, jewelry, or baseball card collections lying around the house but still want to make some quick cash, check out the following list of ordinary household items you can recycle for money.
When it comes to repurposing everyday items, we could learn a thing or two from the Victorians. Especially during the latter half of the 19th century, very little was truly “trash.” Secondhand shops and itinerant peddlers flourished in England, as there was potential value in every snippet and shard (even animal droppings were collected and sold). Housewives and housekeepers would put aside bits and bobs on a daily basis—scraps of fabric, grubby rags, the bones from Sunday’s roast, fragments of glass or metal or leather or paper—for the various collectors who came to call. Chief among these was the ragpicker, a person who, having fallen on hard times, supported themselves by gathering and reselling the detritus of day-to-day life.
Few of us go to such lengths today—in fact, most of us tend toward the opposite direction, discarding scads of stuff that could be reused, repurposed, recycled, or sold. Plenty of these everyday items, however, could put a couple of extra bucks in your pocket. Read on to see 14 surprising items that you can recycle for money!
1. Cooking Oil
Does the deep fryer on your kitchen counter see a lot of action? Do you submerge your turkey into bubbling oil every Thanksgiving? Don’t dispose of the used oil by throwing it away (or even worse—much, much worse—pouring the oil down the kitchen sink drain). In the U.S., the used cooking oil market is projected to be worth $908 million by 2027. While most of the stuff comes from restaurants or food trucks, you can also save up and sell your used household oil. Just search for a local buyer to avoid the hassles and hazards of shipping grease long distances.
Steel can be melted down and reused over and over, without sacrificing strength or any other of its useful qualities. In addition to getting a payout, folks who scrap steel can feel really good about keeping the material out of landfills. Even more valuable to your local scrap yard are copper and bronze, so scrounge up whatever metal you have and take it to be scrapped.
3. Pine cones
Got pine trees? If you do, harvest the cones periodically, use as many as you need for making bird feeders or fire starters, and then sell what’s left. Crafters go nuts for these charming, singular seed pods, and will happily pay for pine cones—and the bigger they are, the better. Try listing them on Etsy, eBay, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace and you’re sure to attract buyers.
4. Moving Boxes
Getting cardboard boxes from local retailers is a time-honored tradition for 20- and 30-somethings moving from one apartment to the next, but people who need larger boxes or a specific shape of box have to buy them. That means there’s a market for them. BoxCycle is an online cardboard box clearinghouse that makes the process easy (and free for sellers). While recycling is great, selling these essential moving supplies so they can be reused is a smarter choice, as long as they’re still in good shape.
5. PT and TP Rolls
Believe it or not, there are people who want to buy the cardboard tubes that form the core of your toilet paper and paper towel rolls. Those people are crafters. (We hope.) Peddling paper-product tubes is surprisingly lucrative: 100 toilet paper rolls can go for as much as $20!
Pro Tip: Include free shipping in your offer. Since the tubes are so lightweight, it won’t make a big dent in your profits, and it’s extremely attractive to would-be buyers—75 percent of whom, according to a 2019 study, expect free shipping with online purchases.
6. Wine Corks
Like shipping pallets, wine corks are a very versatile DIY craft supply. While selling pallets probably isn’t practical, it’s easy to collect corks for a period of time (no judgment; no one else needs to know how long that period is) and then send them off to willing buyers. If you have a well-stocked wine cellar or sizable wine rack with a high turnover, keep a bin or basket to toss corks into after decanting.
7. Ink Cartridges
Several major office supply retailers offer a financial incentive, usually in the form of store credit, for returning printer ink cartridges. There are stipulations—most concerning where and when the cartridges were purchased—so check with your favorite big-box store. Or search online for sites that will buy them outright without such restrictions.
8. Computer Software CDs
There was a brief moment in human history when the American psyche was inexorably bound up with dial-up modems (and the pained-donkey noise they made), actually pronouncing the “double-U, double-U, double-U, dot” in website names, and various dancing entities (babies, frogs, hamsters). At that time, you could hardly stick your hand in a mailbox without hitting an America Online CD-ROM promising 1,000 free hours of email, internet access, chat rooms, and so much more. Those once-ubiquitous freebies are collectibles now, but there’s also demand for just about any kind of computer software disc you can scrounge up. (They’re probably underneath all those appliance manuals in your file drawer.)
Given how much time people devote to their phones nowadays, it might seem like actual paper magazines are a charming relic of bygone days, little more than a curiosity. But a quick Etsy search reveals all sorts of periodicals available for purchase—midcentury issues of “Life” and “National Geographic,” contemporary art journals, a 1925 issue of “Today’s Housewife,” large mystery lots of who-knows-what, and, naturally, old adult magazines. So subscribe away, then read ‘em and weep…for joy when you get spending money for selling magazines online.
10. Makeup Containers
This one’s for all the frugal, environmentally minded folks who also enjoy playing around with eyeshadow palettes or searching for the perfect red lipstick. Not only can you return or resell your empty makeup containers—the BACK 2 MAC program is particularly popular, but many brands offer incentives to encourage recycling—you can also sell partially used products! So if you ever love something at the store but hate how it looks once you’re home, check out where to get cash for your cosmetics.
11. Car Batteries
As you probably know, there are plenty of places to pick up a new car battery when yours is on the fritz, but there are also many ways to drum up some bucks for the used one. Most automotive parts retailers, like AutoZone, will hand over gift cards or cash for a defunct battery. Scrap yards and metal recyclers are another option. For batteries that still have some life left in ‘em, turn to virtual sites like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, or IRL sites where car parts, tools, and the like are on offer.
12. Family Recipes
Gram’s irresistible hot fudge sauce. Uncle Peter’s celebrated potato salad. The old-fashioned steamed chocolate pudding your mother-in-law makes every Christmas. Mom’s crowd-pleasing cheesy corn chowder. You want these recipes to live on so your kids and grandkids can someday have their own family favorites and special memories. Aside from putting together one of those spiral-bound Junior League cookbooks or starting your own food blog or YouTube channel, how can you profit from them, though? There are more avenues than you may imagine for selling recipes, such as freelancing for a food blog or selling your culinary secrets to one. This is also a super side hustle for those who love to cook but don’t want to pursue a food-centric career.
13. Broken Crayons
Crayons are terrific for craft projects, plenty of which don’t even require that crayons are whole or have an intact wrapper. Don’t feel guilty about buying a brand-new 64-count box (the kind with the built-in sharpener, of course!) when your kids start complaining about the current inventory. Gather up all the burnt siennas and raw siennas and goldenrods and salmons and bronzes (best Crayola color ever, amirite?) and those weirdly waxy cornflower blue ones—do they even still make those anymore?—and head to eBay or Etsy to start selling.