How to Earn the Most Money Recycling Aluminum Cans, Glass Bottles, and Plastic Containers

Recycling helps conserve energy and materials and also provides cash to recyclers. If you'd like to earn some extra money, check into the recycling programs in your state. Currently, ten states have container deposit legislation, commonly called bottle bills. If you live in one of those states, you can earn a deposit refund for many beverage containers. In other states, you can earn money by recycling aluminum cans.

Recycle Beverage Containers in States With Bottle Bills

As of July, 2015, the states with bottle bills include:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Vermont

Bottle bills are slightly different in each state, but have the same basic principle:

  1. The consumer pays a deposit when he purchases a beverage in an aluminum, glass or plastic container. The amount of the deposit varies, but is typically between 5 and 15 cents.
  2. He returns the beverage container to a retail store or local redemption center to claim his deposit. Any resident of the state can collect beverage containers and claim the deposit refund.

In some cases, the state oversees the bottle deposits and keeps unclaimed deposits to pay for other recycling programs or administrative costs. In other states, distributors or retail stores keep unclaimed deposits.

Check your state's bottle bill for specifics about how to recycle bottle containers. Some states have a limit on the number of containers you can return in one day. For instance, in Oregon a small retail store can refuse to accept more than 50 containers per day; a store with more than 5,000 square feet of retail space can refuse to accept more than 144 containers per day.

Warning

It's illegal to collect beverage containers in other states, then transport them to a state with a bottle bill.

Recycle Aluminum Cans

Even if you live in a state that does not currently have a bottle bill, you can still recycle aluminum cans for cash. Aluminum is a commodity, so the price per pound fluctuates daily. Contact your local recycling center to find the current rate. About 34 aluminum cans is equal to one pound. The general national average is 50 cents per pound.

Check with your local recycling center to see if promotions exist. Some offer coupons for additional cents per pound, or have promotional programs for frequent recyclers that offer extra cash, gift cards or items such as hats or T-shirts.

Tip

If you'll be paid per pound, crush cans to fit more into your recycling container. If your state pays a deposit per container, check with your local redemption center to see if it allows crushed cans -- in many cases, the retail store or redemption center must be able to see that the text or barcode on the can that verifies it was sold in your state.

Recycling Glass, Plastic Bottles and Paper

Recycling glass and plastic bottles or containers keeps them out of landfills and enables manufacturers to reuse them to make new containers, which lowers the rate of consumption. However, unless you live in a state with a bottle bill, you aren't likely to earn money with your recycling efforts of these materials.

If you do live in a bottle bill state, you can increase your income by asking local bars or restaurants if they would like your help recycling glass or plastic beverage containers. If not, see if you can place recycling bins and retrieve the bottles as needed.

In the past, some recycling facilities offered cash for paper. The potential for cash was low -- most only paid around $45 per ton. Check with your local recycling facility to see if it still pays cash for paper.

Increase Earnings By Starting a Recycling Program

To gain access to more recycled materials, start a recycling program at your local gym, office or school. Speak to a manager or owner about placing recycling bins at the location, then pick up the recyclable materials on a regular basis. You may offer the business or school a portion of the profits.

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