Unlike most individuals, I don’t recycle for the greater good, sorry. For me, it’s not about the environment, saving resources, or minimizing pollution. It’s about cold, hard cash. Those other benefits are nice for others, but it’s not my driving force. I like money. I like saving it, and I like making it.
In the United States, and California specifically, most trash companies give you a blue bin to put your recyclables in. I NEVER use that thing. I might as well be throwing $1 bills in the bin and giving it to my trash company.
I always take my recyclables in to a third-party recycling company because it makes me money – but not really. When you buy most recyclables (glass, plastic, aluminum), you usually have to pay a deposit (In California its CRV – California Redemption Value, but it is called other things like ‘Deposit’ elsewhere). This is what you get back when you turn in your recyclables. You get your deposit back. When you put your recyclables in that blue bin for the trash company, you are essentially giving them your deposit, and not getting it back yourself.
So How Much Are We Talkin’ Here?
You may think that the amount you get back it not even worth your time. And that may be the case if you don’t use a lot of recyclable items. I’m sad to admit, but we drink lots of soda and bottled water, and so the deposit can add up. While it varies by state and location, in California you get about $0.05 per can and bottle. So, a 24-pack of water or beer pockets you $1.20 when you turn in your bottles or cans. If you go through a pack of water a week, this equates to over $60 a year in savings!
Where The Big Money Is At!
The big money in recycling doesn’t even come from bottles and cans. It comes from metals recycling. You may ask yourself, ‘Well, I don’t really have any metals to recycle, so that doesn’t really apply to me’. Don’t deceive yourself. There will come a time when you will have the opportunity to recycle metal. In fact, it happened to my wife and I last year. We were remodeling our bathroom, and we had a bunch of old copper pipe. We were going to toss it, but I thought, ‘Hey, people are stealing this stuff, it must be worth something!’ So, I took it down to my recycler, and my 10 lbs. of copper pipes got me $75! While not huge, I was happy as that would buy me lunch for 3 weeks!
I also had the opportunity to recycle even more metal a few weeks ago. I was helping my Dad clean out his garage, and he had several boxes that were filled with old rusty nails, screws, and other fasteners. He wanted to toss it, so I said I will take it off your hands and see what I can get for it. I took it down to my recycler, and I got another $20 for a bunch of rusty scrap metal that we would have otherwise tossed.
You are not going to get rich from recycling, but you can redeem a bunch of money that you already shelled out at the grocery store and maybe even get a little more by cleaning out your house.
Most of you already sort your recyclables out, so why not just drop them off at a recycler instead of giving your trash company a bonus? Have any of you had similar experiences recycling on your own?
This article was written by Robert at The College Investor. You can read more about his takes on personal finance and investing at The College Investor.