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Make Money

15 things to recycle for money

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Before you throw anything away, read the below list. We'll go through some of the best, easiest and most profitable things that you can recycle for money.

Recycle symbol with a t-shirt, can, phone and shoes

Credit: S.Zykov, Evgesha the Creator, Butsaya, Bohdan Danylchenko, Random435 – Shutterstock

It goes without saying that recycling your old stuff is an essential way to reduce your carbon footprint. But what not everyone realises is that, as well as being great for the planet, recycling can be a great way to make money.

In this guide, we won't be talking about things like paper and cardboard that you can put in your recycling bin (although we hope you do recycle this way too).

Instead, we'll be focusing on how to make money from recycling clothes, phones, plastic bags and many more things that you might otherwise throw away.

Best things to recycle for cash

Here are the top 15 things you can get paid to recycle:

  1. Mobile phones

    There are loads of great phone recycling schemes that offer you money or vouchers in return for your old mobile.

    Through these schemes, you might be able to get paid directly for your old phone, or you may receive a voucher to go towards a new device.

    The price you'll be offered will be based on a few factors like the make, model and condition of your phone. Although you'll get paid more for working devices, it's still possible to recycle damaged phones for money, too.

    Some examples of phone recycling schemes are O2 Recycle, EE Recycle and Giffgaff Recycle. We give more info on each of these and list some more good recycling companies in our guide to selling old phones for the best price.

  2. Clothes

    Clothes rail

    Credit: New Africa – Shutterstock

    To avoid your old clothes ending up in a landfill, it can really help to look into fashion recycling schemes.

    For example, Rapanui (one of the best sustainable fashion brands) has a circular supply chain. This means that, once their clothes are worn out, they can be sent back for free and recycled.

    When you send back your old Rapanui clothes, they'll be transformed into new products, and you'll receive a coupon that gives you money off your next purchase with them.

    Another great way to recycle clothes is through the reGAIN app. Through the scheme, you can donate your old clothes to charity to avoid them ending up in a landfill. In return, they'll offer you discount coupons for money off clothes.

    Plus, some high-street fashion retailers have their own clothes recycling schemes. One popular example is the H&M Garment Collecting programme which offers £5 digital vouchers in return for clothes (from any brand, not just H&M ones).

  3. Shoes

    Want to sell your soles? schuh's recycling scheme lets you do just that.

    To recycle shoes through the Sell Your Soles programme, you can bring any old shoes into a schuh store, including ones that weren't bought from schuh. The shoes will be recycled, and you'll receive a £5 voucher for each pair you donate. For more information, check out the T&Cs of schuh's scheme.

    Also, Runners Need stores tend to have recycling bins for running shoes. You won't always get a voucher for recycling your shoes with them, but they've previously run a limited-time promotional deal offering out £20 in vouchers in return for old running shoes.

    If we see any similar offers, we'll post about them on our deals page and Facebook group.

  4. Laptops

    When buying a new laptop, try to sell your old one via a recycling scheme. It's a great way to make money and help the planet.

    For example, if you sell a laptop through musicMagpie's recycling scheme, they will either responsibly recycle it or refurbish it and resell it to somebody else.

    It's easy to sell your laptop to musicMagpie. You'll first need to tell them the make, model and condition of your device and they'll give you a free instant price. You can then send the laptop off to them for free and receive the money on the same day.

    Another site you could try is Laptops Direct. To get the best offer for your old laptop, ask for quotes from a few different companies to compare prices.

  5. Aluminium cans

    To make money from your old cans, you could look into selling them via recycling centres.

    There's a list of recycling centres in the UK on the Think Cans website.

    It's important to note that, although you've probably heard of references to getting 'cash from cans', this is a figure of speech. Scrap metal dealers actually aren't allowed to pay for metal with cash so you should only be paid by electronic transfer or cheque.

  6. Plastic bags

    plastic bag

    Credit: Bowonpat Sakaew – Shutterstock

    If you have more plastic bags than you need at home, now's your chance to recycle them and make money in the process.

    Some supermarkets and online food stores will give you money in return for your old plastic bags.

    Ocado will give you 10p for each Ocado bag you return to them. Although you can give them any type of plastic bag that you're keen to recycle, they'll only pay you for ones from Ocado.

    They currently recycle 89% of bags that are given back to them, but they say on their website that they're working to improve that figure.

    At other supermarkets, you may find that some (but not all) of their stores have similar recycling schemes in place where they'll pay you for your old plastic bags or bottles. Head into your local supermarket to see if they have a recycling scheme, or if they can direct you to a nearby store that does.

  7. Old tech

    Currys runs a great 'cash for trash' scheme whereby you can make money on your old unwanted tech when you take it in-store to be recycled.

    All you have to do is drop your unwanted tech into your nearest store and you'll receive at least £5 to redeem on your next in-store or online purchase (minimum spend £25).

    Any electrical appliance powered by a battery or mains supply plug is accepted, whether it's an old TV or a toaster, and it doesn't even have to have been bought from Currys.

    For more valuable unwanted items such as laptops, phones and tablets, you can get an instant valuation online. You'll then get an estimate reference which you can take in-store to trade in and receive a gift card towards a new product.

    Check out the special offers online where you can receive additional discounts when trading eligible devices for selected products.

  8. Amazon gadgets

    One of the best ways to make money on Amazon is to recycle your old gadgets via its Trade-In programme.

    Similarly to the Currys scheme above, they accept a wide range of devices – not just ones from Amazon. As well as products like Kindles and Amazon Echos, they'll also accept some games consoles, smartphones and more.

    In return for your old electrical items, you'll receive an Amazon gift card. See the full range of eligible devices.

  9. Furniture

    A great one for if you've pulled the short straw and ended up with the box room in your new shared house, IKEA buys back used IKEA furniture you no longer have room for!

    With Buyback and Resell, IKEA buys back eligible products including chests of drawers, bookcases, chairs and small tables, and sells them on second hand.

    You'll get IKEA in-store credit to refresh your home (or buy the new compact storage you'll need). How much you get will depend on the condition of the furniture you want to get rid of, but they have a handy estimator tool online to give you an idea.

  10. Glasses frames

    If you have any old glasses or sunglasses lying around that have reached the end of their life, Bird Eyewear offers to recycle the frames for you.

    Bird's recycle programme allows you to send in your old frames to be recycled in exchange for a £20 discount off a brand new pair of glasses or sunglasses.

    Bird is all about sustainability and not only will you be helping save the planet by recycling your plastic frames, but when using your discount voucher to purchase a new pair from Bird, they'll give a donation to SolarAid. An all-round win!

  11. Toilet roll tubes

    Yep, you read that right. Instead of throwing away your empty toilet roll tubes, you could make money by selling them.

    In fact, old loo roll tubes are one of the top things to sell online. They can be reused for a number of purposes such as gardening, arts and crafts and pet toys.

    You could potentially make up to 10p per roll by selling them on eBay. As you'd otherwise be disposing of them for free, it's a very easy way to earn cash.

    Next time you're running low on toilet roll, it's worth looking into eco-friendly brands that use plastic-free packaging. Find out more in our guide to the best eco-friendly home products.
  12. Ink cartridges

    When you run out of printer ink, you can save money on new ink in a couple of ways.

    Firstly, you'd have the option to refill the cartridges with new ink – this avoids wasting the plastic containers and helps you save money on printing costs. To do this, have a look online to see if there are any ink-refill centres near you.

    Another option is to sell the empty cartridges online. For example, The Recycling Factory has a recycling scheme that pays you for your old ink cartridges.

  13. Makeup containers

    red lipsticks

    Credit: I am Kulz – Shutterstock

    If you ever buy makeup and beauty products, keep an eye out for recycling schemes that accept empty containers. While you might not necessarily earn cash, you can get free or cheap makeup by handing in empty containers.

    Lush has one of the top makeup recycling schemes. You can get 50p off in-store purchases for each piece of eligible packaging you recycle (we list the eligible types of packaging in this Lush deals post).

    You can also return your 10ml sample pots for an additional 5p off your shopping per item. Or, if you return five full-sized qualifying items, you can get a free LUSH face mask instead.

  14. Bikes

    Feel like it's time to get a new bike? Try selling or trading in your old one so that it can be refurbished and resold.

    At Halfords, you can get up to £1,000 as a gift card if you trade in your old bike. To be eligible, the bike can't be electric or older than five years old. It also needs to be a Halfords bike from one of these brands:

    • Apollo
    • Boardman
    • Carrera
    • Indi
    • Pendleton
    • Voodoo.

    You can find the full eligibility criteria, as well as info about how to book a free valuation, on the Halfords website.

    If you'd prefer to sell your bike online, our guides to making money on Amazon and on Facebook Marketplace will help. You could also try these profitable eBay selling tips.

    Alternatively, another great option is to donate your old bike to a charity, such as The Bike Project. They refurbish second-hand bikes and then donate them to refugees and asylum seekers.

    If you're keen to donate to The Bike Project, find out where your nearest drop-off point is on their website.

  15. Litter

    To give people an extra incentive to pick up litter, some bars, restaurants and coffee shops actually give away free drinks to their customers who collect rubbish in the local area.

    Deals like this often pop up in seaside towns in an effort to tackle plastic waste on beaches, but you could find similar schemes anywhere in the country.

    To find out if there are any deals like this near you, check online. You might find a regional news website has previously covered a story about a local business running an initiative like this.

    You could even visit a local pub or cafe to see if they'd be interested in introducing a promotional deal for customers who pick up rubbish or plastic waste nearby. The worst that can happen is they'll say no, so it's definitely worth asking!

Keen to learn more about recycling? Find out what you can (and can't) recycle at home.

Laura Brown

WRITTEN BY Laura Brown

Laura Brown, Head of Editorial at Save the Student, is an award-winning writer with expertise in student money. She project manages influential national student surveys and has presented findings to MPs in Westminster. As an expert on student issues, Laura has been quoted by the BBC, the Guardian, Metro and more.
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