How to Sell Plastic for Recycling

Even in the best of economic times, it helps to know how to stretch a dollar. To this end, many families make a little extra cash recycling cans, bottles and other plastics. Aluminum cans are easy to recycle; however, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, only 37 percent of plastic bottles were recycled in 2008, even with the incentive of a deposit refund. Additionally, certain types of plastic bottles and containers must be dropped off at recycling centers that accept those specific types of plastics.

Collect plastic of all kinds. You don't have to dig through your neighbors’ trash cans to collect plastic. Instead, tell your friends, neighbors and coworkers that you recycle, and many will save their plastic bottles and containers for you.

Sort the plastic into two categories: plastics with a deposit value, and plastics without a deposit value. Then separate the plastics without a deposit value by the numbers on the bottom of the containers. Those identification numbers indicate the type of plastic used—for example, "#1 PET" indicates soda bottles; "#2 HDPE," milk jugs; "#3 PVC," detergent bottles and plastic pipes; "#4 LDPE," six-pack soda can rings and plastic bags; "#5 PP," storage boxes and food containers; "#6 PS," packing peanuts; and "#7 other," baby and water cooler bottles. Clearly label each bag so that when you arrive at the recycling plant it's easy for the staff to sort and weigh the bags.

Locate plastic recyclers. Check out online recycling location finders such as Earth 911 or Bottles and Cans (see Resources) or see what local government recycling efforts exist in your area. If they cannot accept and pay for more than #1 and #2 plastics, they should be able to direct you to local resources that can. It may take several phone calls before you locate a recycling center that accepts and pays for #3 to #7 plastics.

Call your local municipal waste agency, usually in your city listings under the Department of Sanitation or Department of Public Works, to locate other buyers of plastics. Some will not share the information, but others will be happy to give you contact numbers. If there are local businesses that make or use plastics, their offices may also have contact information for recyclers in your area.

Use your city's recycling program for plastics you cannot sell back to the recycling plant. Nearly every city has bins for recyclables which are picked up on trash collection day. If your city does not have such a program, contact your county or state for other recycling programs.