Reuse and Recycle to Replenish Your Bank Account


Did you know that there are more than 50 uses for fabric sheets? That’s used fabric sheets, mind you. And that is a good point to consider when thinking on the famous words of Ben Franklin who reminded everyone that a “penny saved is a penny earned”. After all, that dryer sheet used to remove burnt food from a dish also helped to spare you the expense of scrubbing pads or costly cleaners. It also kept the money you would have spent on a specialty bathroom cleaner when used to remove scum from the tub and tiles, or a pricy container of “computer screen” cleaners when it tidied up the monitor on your computer, and so on.

Why am I emphasizing the many uses for fabric sheets, or used fabric sheets? It is to open up this article about the ways that you can both reuse and/or recycle to save and earn money. Note the use of the word “both”. That is because you can follow Franklin’s advice and save money through frugality and the reuse of materials or products that still have some life or service left in them.

So, it’s not so much as money earned, but looking for simple ways to reuse, such as the many uses for fabric sheets, improves the bottom line and the bank account.

Yet, did you know that you can also recycle for cash?

Beyond the Basics

Naturally, you are probably well aware of options like turning in aluminum cans for cash or scrapping metal for money. Yet, there is an amazing trick to finding ways to recycle for profit, and a lot of people know nothing about it. It begins when you type just two words into your computer. What are they?

Sell old…

Go and try it now. Head to Google and type in the words “Sell old…” and see what automatically fills in after those two words. Chances are it will include a lot of items you might have laying around the house, or which you might actively gather in order to re-sell through a site like eBay. You can use eBay’s search engine to see what rates the highest when you enter terms like “sell old” or “sell used”, but it is best if you opt for Google and then look at the best bets.

Because it is such a massive term, try typing in “sell old” or “sell used” and then a single letter such as “sell old a”, this reveals all of the top terms in which the letter corresponds to the item. For instance, appliances, albums, and apple devices are some of the most common “a” terms that appear when sell old or sell used precedes them.

And here’s the secret: If these searches happen so often that Google is tracking them and using them in auto fill, it means there is a busy buyer’s market for them too.

Naturally, you can’t be a seller of old appliances unless you have an ample store on hand, but the point to take here is that one way to line your pockets through recycling is not to recycle, per se, but to sell old or used items that are in demand.

Some of the most surprising results from searches of this kind include:

  • Old wine corks
  • Used printer cartridges
  • Used batteries of all kinds
  • Old electronics

And though you can easily sell them because of the consistently high volume of regular searches, you want to ask yourself just why that is the case. In other words, why on earth would the millions of people who use eBay be eager to buy old wine corks or empty ink cartridges?

The answer is simple – there’s money in it!

And that is money you can also access if you approach it wisely.  To see just what I mean, let’s start with those used wine corks.

Unexpected Ways to Earn Through Recycling

Everyone has family, friends, neighbors, colleagues and others who are happy to set aside specific items if asked. For example, I once had a friend eager to start saving money by raising laying hens. She asked everyone to save their empty egg crates as she needed them for her hens’ eggs. She ended up with more than 500 of them!

So, go ahead and tell everyone you know that you are eager to have all of their old wine corks. Let it be known that you’ll take them stained, from any sort of wine and all the rest. Then when you have 100 or more in good condition, you simply list them on eBay for a competitive price. You can easily take in around $12 to $17 for 100-200 used corks. That keeps them out of the trash, costs you nothing to acquire them, and earned you a few bucks for the time you spent creating the listing. You can do this over and over, reusing your listing and your photos and earning money.

You can also apply this exact same method to recycle printer cartridges for cash.

The Printer Cartridge Dilemma

One of my big pet peeves is the fact that printers sell so cheap and yet require such a costly supply of cartridges on a regular basis. Even if the printer is a high priced, multi-cartridge model, it seems to gobble up ink like we gobble up air. These cartridges are typically pricey, and once empty we might easily find ourselves tossing them in the garbage.

Even though many know that stores accept them back for a small amount of store credit, the vast majority don’t bother. This presents you with a serious opportunity.

Again, let it be known to your family, friends, neighbors, colleagues and others that you are eager to have any of their empty printer cartridges. It shouldn’t matter what brand or model. You are going to create organized bins to store them and allow them to accumulate. As you receive them, always ask the following:

Have you ever refilled these cartridges?

Why ask this? If they are “virgin”, you will get more money per cartridge. It is simply that a cartridge used only once before has a lot more life left in it than one that might have been refilled by an amateur, or one that has already been through the process before (i.e. refilled professionally and resold as a refilled model).

Make sure you keep the virgin empties separate from the non-virgin empties, and keep them separated by model number. Then, when you have anywhere from six or more of one kind, you can start to create regular listings on eBay. Yes, it may surprise you to learn that buyers are actively scooping up the empties in “lots”. In fact, they prefer lots as opposed to one empty at a time.

In the descriptions, you need to be clear about the condition, model number, and whether it is black, color or a combo (or an individual color). Create a good photo you can reuse with each new listing. You can make from $20 to $35 on a lot of five to six cartridges through auctions.

Of course, you can also recycle HP printer cartridges for cash at most office supply stores. You don’t have to stick with HP alone and can go with most of the big names, including Epson, Canon and more. Stores like Staples and Office Max don’t actually hand over the cash but will use a reward such as a $2 store credit when you turn in a qualifying item. Most put a cap on 10 per month, but that means you get $20 to put towards your own supplies for doing nothing more than storing discards until you have enough to return for the cash.

Also consider getting rid of your empties at buy-back sites. Some of the best include Toner Buyer and eCycle. You just register, collect the recyclable items and then get paid for whatever you submit. eCycle actually takes laser cartridges in addition to inkjet, while Toner Buyer also accepts copier and fax supplies in addition to printer cartridges.

Clearly, you can make a decent income if you create your own local recycling program for small to large businesses that may not want to be bothered with collecting, storing, packaging and returning the items. You can offer a small sum for the right to have the empties and then turn around and make a reasonable sum for the items you submit to these buy back sites.

Which one is for you? It really depends on the amount of space you have, the time you can commit to eBay or driving around to pick up the items. It also matters whether or not you prefer cash or store credit. The point is that by spreading the word that you are an empty ink cartridge recycler, you can start to rake in a fairly steady income in whatever way you choose.

Bigger Prey

Now, up to this point we have looked at relatively small and easily stored items – corks and empty printer cartridges. If you have some space in the garage or even a room in the house, you can easily stockpile large quantities of them without much difficulty, and then sell them for cash when you have the time.

There is also larger “prey” for the individual eager to recycle for cash. This would mean you need a bit more room and a space safe should there be spills, leaks or risks associated with the items collected. In that list above, we also mentioned that you can recycle batteries for cash. This is good news to anyone with a car because, eventually, that battery is going to go the way of the Dodo Bird and rather than let the garage earn the money on the core, you can recycle your batteries for cash.

Yet, as one expert in this particular area said, “Whether you have a dead battery or one that was only purchased a few months ago, you can sell it for cash. While some vendors will pay you a flat-rate, you may consider selling your newer batteries for top dollar to buyers that are looking for a good battery without having to pay the core charge or brand-new retail price commanded by an auto parts store.”

Now, that implies that there are, perhaps, a handful of ways to sell or recycle batteries for cash, and the answer is “yes, that’s true”. For example, if I were to list the venues where you can get cash for a battery, it would include:

  • Auto parts stores – Nationally known chains like Napa or AutoZone accept used batteries and do much the same as office supply stores with empty ink cartridges – they give you store credit in exchange for the battery. The amount you can get is going to run from $5 to $15 depending on the store, core fees, and any recycling fees. You won’t be able to use this repeatedly, with a bulk assortment of batteries or on a regular basis.
  • Junk yards – They are one of the most obvious resources and they are glad to take multiples and an array of makes and models. These sites are eager to get the lead cores from the batteries as they can be sold to manufacturers who are going to reuse them for new batteries. There is no fixed rate, because the market fluctuates, but you can expect around $7 per battery.
  • Other spots – Metal recyclers also pay for batteries and actually prefer if you have a few. Craigslist might be a good way to sell batteries as you can require that they are picked up locally by the buyer. Local repair shops might be happy to buy as they too can resell the cores for a fast profit. And if you have more than 500 pounds in batteries, large scale organizations like Global Tech Environmental are willing to pay AND do a pickup!

So, corks, ink cartridges and batteries are all realistic items to recycle in order to keep the world a bit greener – and to do the same for your bank account!


Leave a Comment