Many of us routinely recycle plastic, paper, glass, and metals. However, there are many other things you probably didn't know could be turned in for cash or a tax deduction. Plus, you'll feel good about helping to save the planet.
Here is a list of six items you can recycle or donate, for money or just because it's the right thing to do.
- If you run a small restaurant, you can make a few dollars selling your used oil and popped wine corks.
- If you have old gift cards, you can cash them in or recycle them.
- If you're cutting your hair off, you might as well save it for someone else.
A company called TerraCycle will pay for your trash. This program works best for schools, small businesses, and nonprofits that collect a lot of trash. The company will donate money to your cause for every piece of trash you send the organization. According to its website, the company will take everything from empty Scotch tape rolls to energy bar wrappers.
TerraCycle will even pay for the shipping. If you have a cause or a school program that's in need of some extra money, this could be a great way to raise funds.
#2. Wine Corks
Recycling wine corks won't make you rich, but it could definitely pay for a free bottle of wine. There are a couple of places to make money on wine corks.
The first source is eBay. Some very peculiar products are for sale are on eBay, including corks. Craft makers, manufacturers, and other businesses use old corks and are willing to pay for them. The price isn't much, usually around five cents per cork.
Most prefer to purchase corks in bulk, meaning they want a box of several hundred.
#3. Gift Cards
Many of us receive gift cards for a birthday or holiday and never get around to using them. If you have a few of those lying in a drawer, you might consider trading them. Companies like CardCash will take your unused gift cards in exchange for cash, which can be spent anywhere. While the amount you get will be less than the face value of the card, it's more than it's getting sitting in a drawer.
How much money you get depends on the value of the card. A $100 card for Shell gas stations will sell for $85 as of October of 2021, but a $100 GameStop card will only fetch $74. The steepest markdowns come from companies that are comparatively less well-known. At Spencer's, a $100 gift card will only trade for $58.
The number of tennis balls that are manufactured each year.
Gift cards, gas cards, grocery store savings cards, even student ID cards and driver's licenses all are made from PVC, a recyclable plastic. If you have used or expired cards, you can at least bundle them up and recycle them. Recycling companies like Earthworks Systems will find a use for them or repurpose the materials.
#4. Cooking Oil
Many recycling centers, biodiesel firms, and small businesses pay for used cooking oil. And if you run a restaurant or a school cafeteria, you may just have a lot of it to sell.
Companies such as SeQuential, Southern Green Industries, and Maine Standard Biofuels are a few companies that purchase and recycle used cooking oil.
Winter is usually the prime time for getting cash for oil because it can be used in home heating systems. Several cities in the U.K. will trade used cooking oil for bus passes, movie tickets, and cash. U.S. cities are beginning to do this as well, but it is a fairly new practice and you will have to find places locally via the newspaper or the internet.
#5. Tennis Balls
An astonishing 325 million tennis balls are manufactured every year. They are made with rubber that is not biodegradable. That creates more than 20,000 metric tons of rubber waste a year.
A small company, reBounces, has come up with a solution. It has created a machine that "re-bounces" or renews old tennis balls and will pay the shipping for donated balls.
ReBounces has specific requirements for the tennis balls it will take. They can't be missing felt or have been wet, for instance, but there is no minimum for the number of balls that they accept.
Although this probably isn't an option for the average person, if you belong to a tennis club or your kids are on a tennis team, you might consider it. Keeping that much rubber out of the landfill is a winning proposition.
#6. Human Hair
There is a lucrative market for human hair. Rates for unbleached natural hair can range from $500 to well over $2,000 depending on the shade, length, and condition.
Hair extension companies, wig makers, and even heirloom hair weavers pay for hair. Several companies, such as BuyAndSellHair.com and HairSellon, have created an online marketplace for hair, matching buyers and sellers of human hair in exchange for a share of the purchase price.
You can even find buyers of hair on eBay and Craigslist. Before you buzz off your locks, do your research and make certain you are dealing with a reputable business. There are lots of fraudulent buyers out there.
If you don't need the cash but would like to help a child, you can donate your hair to Locks for Love. This reputable charity makes wigs for children who've lost their hair due to illness.
The Bottom Line
If you look around, almost everything we use can be recycled. Most of it won't bring you much compensation, but with a little effort, you can keep it out of our overloaded trash heaps.