If you want to know how to make money recycling plastic, then this is the post for you.
Whether you are concerned about the environmental impact of plastics on our planet or just want to make money recycling plastic bottles and containers, it is quit concerning that about 85% of plastic waste ended up in landfills in 2021.
Thankfully more people are becoming aware of plastic waste and are trying to recycle more. And if you need one more reason for recycling plastic, other than helping the environment, recycling plastic can be a nice side hustle.
Not only recycling plastic can be profitable, but it’s also one of the more altruistic money-making options since you’re helping the environment!
There are quite a few different types of plastic you can recycle, such as:
- PET or PETE: This is used to make clear bottles. It is mostly used in food or drink packaging.
- PP: This is a type of durable plastic that is often found in medicine bottles, yogurt containers and other food packaging.
- LDPE: This is used to make squeeze bottles.
- HDPE: This is used in opaque plastic bottles.
What will I learn?
Can you make money recycling plastic?
Short answer: If you live in a state that has bottle deposit laws, you can earn money when you recycle plastic bottles. Those who don’t live in states with bottle deposit laws can offer to collect empties from local bars and restaurants for a fee and take them to a recycling center. You can also make money recycling other items, such as aluminum cans.
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For more details on how to make money recycling plastic, make sure you read the rest of the post!
How to Make Money Recycling Plastic
Like I said above if you live in a state that has bottle deposit laws you can earn money for recycling plastic.
Step One: Check to see if your state as a bottle bill
The first step is to check to see if your state has a bottle bill. Currently, 10 states have a bottle bill. If you happen to live in one of these states, you’ll be able to cash in your plastic bottles and other containers.
Recycling plastic in states that have bottle bills can be incredibly profitable. In fact, eight people were arrested trying to smuggle empty beverage containers from Arizona and Nevada to get bottle redemption money in California.
In California, the bottles and cans would have earned them $82,000! Of course, taking bottles you purchased in one state into another one with bottle bills is not legal. Hence those guys getting arrested! Another guy, who was a Kentucky resident, was arrested for trying to smuggle cans into Michigan.
If you don’t live in a state with bottle deposit laws, you will need to try the options in the, “How to make money recycling plastic when you don’t live in a bottle bill state” section.
As for those in bottle bill states, depending on the state you live in, you could earn between 5 cents and 10 cents per plastic item. You can recycle things like plastic mineral water bottles, soda water bottles, plastic cartons, and carbonated soft drink bottles.
Here are the states with bottle deposit laws, and how much you can earn.
In California, you can get 5¢ for containers that are less than 24 oz. and 10¢ for containers that are 24 oz. or greater. California residents can earn money for any container that is made from plastic, and also for those made from glass or bi-metal.
In Connecticut, you can get paid for any can, bottle, jar or carton that’s made from plastic, glass, or metal. HDPE containers are excluded. You can earn 5¢ per container.
Hawaii will pay you cash for any container up to 68 oz. that’s composed of plastic, aluminum, bi-metal, or glass. You can earn 5¢ per container.
Iowa will pay you cash when you return any can, bottle, jar, or carton that’s made from plastic, glass, or metal. You can get 5¢ for containers.
In Maine, you can earn money for any container that’s four liters or less, and made from plastic, glass, or metal. You can earn 15¢ for wine and liquor and 5¢ for all other containers.
In Massachusetts, you can get 5¢ for any can, bottle, jar, or carton composed of plastic, glass, metal, or a combination. Excludes biodegradables.
Michigan will give you a redemption reward for any container that is less than one gallon, and made of plastic, metal, paper, or glass. You can earn 10¢ for beverage containers.
In New York, you can get paid 5¢ for any bottle, can, or jar that’s less than one gallon and made from plastic, steel, glass, metal, or aluminum.
Oregon pays you 10¢ for beverage containers. Any bottle, can, or jar that’s composed of plastic, metal, or glass is accepted.
In Vermont, you can get paid for any can, jar, or carton that’s made from plastic, glass, metal, paper, or a combination. You can get 15¢ for liquor and 5¢ for all other containers.
Step Two: Gather plastic to recycle
If you live in a bottle bill state, then it’s time to start gathering plastic to recycle.
Here’s where you can get it:
Your own home
The most obvious place to look for plastic to recycle is your own home. This is a good starting point. You can make a little extra cash from any plastic containers, such as cartons and bottles, that you have in the house.
This is great because it allows you to make money from something that you would otherwise just throw out.
Your own home is a good starting point, but if you really want to maximize your earnings, you’ll want to get your hands on as much plastic as you can. This means looking out for it outside of the home as well.
Friends and family
Another good option is to simply ask family and friends if they have any plastic bottles that they would be willing to give to you. Many people are happy to have someone take away their unwanted plastic for them. You save them the hassle of doing it themselves and you get paid in the process.
You could also ask your neighbors if they have any plastic that you could recycle for them. You likely have neighbors who don’t recycle their plastic, and they would be happy to give these unwanted recyclables to you.
Don’t just go rooting through your neighbors’ trash cans though. Not only is it poor etiquette, but it’s illegal in many states as well. So, get your neighbor’s permission first!
Bars and restaurants
You could get some extra plastic bottles and other containers from local bars and restaurants. Just call and ask if you can have their recyclables. Then, you have more plastic containers you can redeem for cash.
You could also ask your management if they would mind you collecting any discarded plastic. Many places will be happy to oblige since you are helping them to recycle!
If management agrees, then you could set up a separate bin in the break room with a note that says, “plastic recyclables only.”
It’s important you stay on top of your plastic collection. After all, it’s important to keep your workplace neat and management happy! So, don’t let the plastic pile up!
Make sure that you check the bin daily either during lunch or after work each day.
Sadly, people litter! So, you will often find plastic containers just scattered on the floor in outdoor areas. While it is sad, you can help out your neighborhood and make money by picking up this litter.
If you’re looking for extra plastic bottles, cartons, and other containers, then make sure you check the following areas:
- Parking lot
- Under bushes
- The beach
There’s usually even more litter around after events like concerts, festivals, street fairs, and marathons and other sports events.
Step Three: Take the plastic to a place that pays you
Now that you have the plastic, it’s time to get paid for it.
You might be wondering, “Where can I recycle plastic for cash near me?”
Well, you have quite a few options….
Bottle and can redemption centers
In states that have bottle deposit laws, you can return plastic containers, and other recyclables, for cash at redemption centers.
To find redemption centers near you, open up Google and enter the phrase, “bottle redemption near me.” You’ll get a list of nearby centers where you can get cash for bottles, cans, and other containers.
Many grocery stores and supermarkets in states that have bottle deposit laws have machines for plastic bottles and other recyclables.
You can use these machines to get cash for plastic. Typically, you’ll find these machines behind the store or in the store’s parking lot.
After you have loaded all of your plastic into the machine, most stores will give you a slip of paper, which you can redeem with a cashier.
Call local stores to see whether they have a machine for recycling plastic bottles.
Since many of us visit the grocery store anyway, this is a pretty convenient option if you’re looking to make money recycling.
Gas stations and convenience stores
Many gas stations and convenience stores in bottle bill states allow you to return bottles and other recyclables like cans for money.
Simply call local gas stations/convenience stores in your area, and ask if they offer bottle redemption.
How to Make Money Recycling Plastic in a Non Bottle Bill State
What if you don’t live in a state with bottle bill laws?
After all, there are only 10 states that actually do bottle redemption. That leaves 40 states that don’t have a bottle bill.
Unless your state has a bottle bill, places like recycling centers are not going to pay you for plastic bottles, cartons, and other plastic containers.
While some states without deposit laws do have curbside recycling programs and recycling centers where you can drop off any empty, clean plastic bottles and other recyclables, these don’t pay you. So, if you’re looking to make money recycling plastic, then that’s not ideal.
Companies like TerraCycle encourage you to recycle by giving you points for qualifying waste. However, you redeem these points for a donation to charity, rather than cash. So, that’s not a viable option.
Does that mean that if you don’t live in one of the 10 bottle bill states that you are left without any way to make money recycling?
There are still some options you can try.
Haul away recycling for local business
With this option, you are basically the middleman. A local business pays you to haul away their plastic. You take said plastic to the recycling center where they dispose of it.
Basically, get in touch with local businesses that are likely to have a lot of plastic waste. This could include bars and restaurants, for example. Then, give them a call and ask them if they would be willing to pay you for hauling away their plastic for them.
Some places will be willing to partner with you, especially if you offer the owner convenient times for pickup and a competitive rate. You could put a post on Craigslist as well asking if any local bars or restaurants need someone to collect empties.
The business owner gets rid of their unwanted waste, and you get paid. So, it’s a win-win.
You could consider starting a recycling business, rather than simply hauling it away and taking it to a third-party recycling center. But honestly, it’s a huge amount of work. It’s not as simple as it sounds. You’ll need to acquire premises and vehicles for your business.
This could be storage and sorting facilities or a small lock-up for smaller-scale recycling.
You also need to apply for all the correct permits and licenses that may be needed for you to operate a recycling business in your area, and that’s just to start the business. Running a recycling business takes a lot of effort too since you have to sort through items, and as you will likely have employees, you’ll have to organize and manage them too.
Also, running a recycling business can be costly. Equipment can cost $1,000s. If you want to start a big project like that, great, but it comes with a whole lot of time, effort, and upfront investment on your part.
Recycle aluminum instead
If hauling away plastic for businesses isn’t for you and you simply want to turn recyclables into cash, recycling aluminum cans is a fantastic alternative.
Even if you don’t live in a state with bottle deposit laws, you can still get cash for aluminum cans. You won’t get paid per can as you would in bottle bill states. Instead, you will get paid for cans based on their weight.
Currently, the price for aluminum cans is $0.34 per pound.
The market value for aluminum changes all the time. So, I would recommend you use iScrap App to check current price for aluminum cans.
How Much Can You Make Recycling Plastic?
If you live in a bottle bill state, you can earn from $0.05 to $0.10 per container.
This means that if you have 50 plastic containers to recycle, you’d earn $2.50 in a state that pays 5 cents per container and $5 in a state that pays 10 cents per container.
In an interview with KQED, a man named Darwin Laren who’s been trading in recyclables for cash for more than 20 years, says that he earns around $150 to $160 Monday through Friday. As I suggested above, Laren collects cans from lots of places. In fact, each day he visits about 10 different bars and restaurants around the city to collect bottles and cans.
Obviously, the more cans you have the more money you can make!
If you are hauling away people’s recyclables, you’ll be able to set your own rates. Your income will depend on how many clients you have, and how many times you collect their recyclables.
If you want to know how to make money recycling plastic, make sure you follow out guide above.
It’s pretty easy to make money recycling plastic if you live in one of the ten states that has bottle redemption laws. Simply take your plastic containers to the places I mentioned above and trade them for cash. You can earn anywhere from 5 cents to 10 cents per plastic container. You can also get paid for recycling glass bottles, aluminum cans other recyclables.
You could also consider hauling away plastic and other recyclables for local bars and restaurants in exchange for payment. Finally, if you don’t live in a bottle bill state and don’t want to haul away recycling either, another option is to recycle aluminum cans instead.
If you want to make money recycling, there are lots of options!