When it comes to reusing everyday objects, we could learn a thing or two from the Victorians. Especially during the second half of the 19th century, very few things were really “trash cans”. Second-hand shops and peddlers flourished in England, as there was potential value in every fragment and shard (even animal dung was collected and sold). Housewives and cleaners set aside daily bric-a-brac – scraps of fabric, dirty rags, bones from the Sunday roast, fragments of glass or metal or leather or paper – for the various collectors who came take a ride. The most important of these was the ragpicker, a person who, after experiencing hard times, supported himself by collecting and reselling the rubbish of daily life.
Few of us go that far today – in fact, most of us tend in the opposite direction, throwing away piles of stuff that could be repurposed, repurposed, recycled, or sold. Many of these everyday items, however, could put a few extra bucks in your pocket. Read on to see 14 surprising items you can recycle for cash!
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1. Cooking oil
Is the fryer on your kitchen counter in full action? Do you dunk your turkey in boiling oil every Thanksgiving? Don’t dispose of used oil by throwing it away (or worse, much worse, pouring the oil down the kitchen sink drain). In the United States, the used cooking oil market is expected to be worth $908 million by 2027. While most things come from restaurants or food trucks, you can also save and sell your used household oil. Just find a local buyer to avoid the hassle and risk of shipping grease over long distances.
Steel can be melted down and reused over and over again, without sacrificing strength or any other of its useful qualities. In addition to getting paid, people who scrap steel can feel really good about keeping the material out of landfills. Copper and bronze are even more valuable to your local scrapyard, so collect whatever metal you have and take it to the scrapyard.
Do you have pins? If you do, harvest the cones periodically, use as many as you need to make bird feeders or fire starters, then sell what’s left. Artisans go crazy for these charming, singular seed pods and will gladly pay for pine cones – and the bigger the better. Try listing them on Etsy, eBay, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace and you’re sure to attract buyers.
4. Moving boxes
Getting cardboard boxes from local retailers is an age-old tradition for 20s and 30s moving from apartment to apartment, but people who need larger boxes or a specific box shape should buy them. It means there is a market for them. BoxCycle is an online cardboard box clearinghouse that makes the process easy (and free for sellers). While recycling is great, selling these essential moving supplies so they can be reused is a smarter choice, as long as they’re still in good condition.
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5. PT and TP rolls
Believe it or not, there are people out there who want to buy the cardboard tubes that form the core of your toilet paper and paper towel rolls. These people are artisans. (We hope.) Selling tubes of paper products is surprisingly lucrative: 100 rolls of toilet paper can cost up to $20!
Pro tip: include free shipping in your offer. Since the tubes are so light, it won’t make a big dent in your profits, and it’s extremely attractive to potential buyers – 75% of whom, according to a study 2019expect free shipping with online purchases.
6. Wine corks
Like shipping pallets, corks are a very versatile DIY supply. While selling pallets is probably not practical, it’s easy to collect caps for a period of time (no judgment, no one else needs to know how long that period is) and then send them to willing buyers. If you have a well-stocked wine cellar or a large wine rack with high turnover, keep a bin or basket in which to dispose of corks after decanting.
7. Ink cartridges
Several major office supply retailers offer a financial incentive, usually in the form of store credit, for returning printer ink cartridges. There are stipulations – mostly relating to where and when the cartridges were purchased – so check with your favorite big box store. Or search online for sites that will buy them directly without such restrictions.
8. Computer software CDs
There was a brief moment in human history when the American psyche was inexorably tied to dial-up modems (and the painful donkey noise they made), effectively uttering the “double-U, double-U, double -U, period”. in the names of websites and various dance entities (babies, frogs, hamster). In those days, you could hardly reach into a mailbox without coming across an America Online CD-ROM promising 1,000 free hours of email, Internet access, chat rooms and more. Those once ubiquitous gifts are now collectibles, but there’s also a demand for just about any kind of computer software disc you can scrounge. (They’re probably under all those device manuals in your filing drawer.)
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Given how much time people spend on their phones these days, it might seem like real paper magazines are a charming relic of yesteryear, little more than a curiosity. But a quick Search Etsy reveals all sorts of periodicals available for purchase – mid-century issues of ‘Life’ and ‘National Geographic’, contemporary art journals, a 1925 issue of ‘Today’s Housewife’, mysterious large amounts of who -knows-what and, of course, from old people’s magazines. So subscribe, read them, and cry…with joy when you spend money selling ezines.
10. Makeup Containers
This one is for all the thrifty and eco-conscious people who also like to play with eyeshadow palettes or search for the perfect red lipstick. Not only can you return or resell your empty makeup containers, but BACK 2 MAC program is particularly popular, but many brands offer incentives to encourage recycling. You can also sell partially used products! So if you ever like something at the store but hate how it looks once you get home, check where to get cash for your cosmetics.
11. Car batteries
As you probably know, there are plenty of places to buy a new car battery when yours has failed, but there are also plenty of ways to make money for the used one. Most auto parts retailers, such as Auto area, will issue gift cards or money for defective battery. Scrap yards and metal recyclers are another option. For batteries that still have life, look to virtual sites like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, or IRL sites where auto parts, tools, etc. are offered.
12. Family Recipes
The irresistible hot fudge sauce from Gram’s. Uncle Peter’s famous potato salad. The old-fashioned steamed chocolate pudding your mother-in-law makes every Christmas. The cheesy corn chowder that mom will love. You want these recipes to last so that your children and grandchildren can one day have their own family favorites and special memories. Besides creating one of those spiral cookbooks or starting your own food blog or YouTube channel, how can you benefit from it? There are more opportunities than you can imagine for selling recipes, like freelancing for a food blog or selling your cooking secrets to one. It’s also a great hustle for those who love to cook but don’t want to pursue a food-centric career.
13. Broken Pencils
Crayons are great for craft projects, many of which don’t even require the crayons to be whole or have the wrapper intact. Don’t feel guilty about buying a brand new 64-unit box (the one with the built-in sharpener, of course!) when your kids start complaining about current inventory. Gather up all the scorched siennas, rough siennas, goldenrods, salmons and bronzes (best Crayola color ever, amirite?) and those weirdly waxy cornflower blues – make it they still still? – and head to eBay or Etsy to start selling.
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