Reusing and recycling is not just a good idea for the environment; they also provide huge potential for profit as a business.
Recycling businesses are becoming more commonplace today as the world is focused on reusing items instead of having them added to landfills.
These businesses might take some time and money to set up, but they also provide the opportunity for big profits.
If you’re looking for recycling business ideas, check out the 13 we have listed below.
1. Cooking Oil
Restaurants and hotels use a boatload of cooking oil, which can get quite expensive, obviously. Today, you can take used cooking oil and recycle it for reuse.
This is becoming a popular market, with some research suggesting the market could be worth $8.89 billion globally in just a few years.
If you want to start a cooking oil business, there are two ways you could go about it.
You could either collect and clean the oil yourself, or you could collect the oil and sell it to recycling businesses that clean it then resell it.
This takes a little bit of legwork, but it is a business you can start today with no money.
You could expect to make about 15 cents per pound of used cooking oil you sell, or 30 to 40 cents per pound if you clean it yourself. (Daily Delish)
Trend on the Rise
The global used cooking oil market is expected to continue growing in the next few years. Through 2026, it’s expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.85%. This means it’s a great business to get into if you want to recycle things for cash.
Computers have many components that can be recycled. While the computer itself may not be able to used as a good machine anymore, some of its parts can definitely be used well.
You could recycle old computers for money yourself without necessarily starting a business. But starting a business will allow you tap into economies of scale.
If you know your way around a computer, you could keep the box and monitor, for example, and replace the inner parts with modern ones and then resell the computers as refurbished on online marketplaces.
You could expect to make roughly $450 for computers you refurbish, depending on the specs. (Well Kept Wallet)
3. Children’s Clothes
Children’s clothes have a very short usable lifespan. Kids grow so fast that they need to move onto new clothes at a very fast rate. That can leave a lot of waste.
Recycling business ideas can start with this as the premise. You could take your own children’s used clothing, wash it up real good and then re-sell it to various thrift shops.
There are even online thrift shops that will purchase this clothing if it is in good condition.
From there, you could even buy other people’s children’s clothing for low prices, then re-sell them yourself on a site you set up and run, or on one of these other sites to sell stuff.
You could expect to make a few dollars for each piece of clothing you sell. (Moms & Crafters)
Tactic for Success
Used children’s clothing is really popular, since it can save parents a lot of money. But there are also many places where you can buy it nowadays. If you want to stand out from others, make sure that your used children’s clothing is in great shape and sanitized before selling it.
Wood is everywhere, and it’s always been a material that has been recycled and used a second time. Traditionally, it’s been burned as firewood or for other reasons.
Recently, though, there’s a big trend in using reclaimed wood in construction projects for houses, sheds and other structures.
You could start your own wood recycling business without a lot of heavy machinery.
A good idea would be to just focus on the collection process and then sell your wood to a company that would do the actual work to get the wood in shape to re-sell it as reclaimed wood.
Along with wood, recycling ballasts for money is another good business if you want to solely focus on the collection process.
While the amount you’ll get will depend on the type of wood you have, you should expect to make a few dollars per square foot of wood you sell. (EcoChic Lifestyles)
Trend on the Rise
Reclaimed wood is all the rage today. It’s expected to grow by a CAGR of 4.6% by 2028. So, collect that old wood and start a recycling business around it.
Paper is present everywhere, and the great news is that it can all be recycled. This provides many opportunities to make a profit on recycling this paper.
The big idea here would be to start your own paper mill that recycled paper. The challenge with this, of course, is the high investment cost to get the facility and machines in order.
Another idea would be to become the business that collects the paper, prepares it and then sells it to paper mills. A great idea to collect the paper is to offer shredding services to businesses.
You could make money two ways here — by charging companies to shred their paper, and then by selling that shredded paper to mills that would recycle it.
Once you’ve collected all that paper, you could sell it for up to $75 per ton. (MoneyPantry)
Tactic for Success
Combining a shredding business with a paper recycling business could be a great way to double dip for profits. But, you’ll need to ensure you can secure companies’ documents. Consider purchasing secure paper shredding holders so your customers know you’re treating them well.
6. Aluminum Cans
Aluminum cans are used for everything from energy drinks to beer to soft drinks. These materials can be recycled and resold for future use.
Again, you can focus on the collection phase of this business to make money without having to purchase and run heavy equipment.
You can partner with local businesses to collect their used aluminum cans, which you’ll then sell to companies that can process it for recycling.
Aluminum cans typically sell for about 59 cents per pound, but that could be higher depending on where you live. (The Penny Hoarder)
Similar to aluminum cans, you can recycle glass that is contained in drinking containers.
But, glass has so many other uses, too, including in windows, mirrors and more. This makes the potential to collect materials for sale even greater than aluminum cans.
Again, you could collect your own glass at home, or collect recycled glass that restaurants and bars have so that you can get products to resell to companies that will actually process the glass for other purposes.
You can even recycle eyeglasses if the actual glass is intact but they are no longer functional due to broken frames or another defect.
It’s possible that you could sell a used glass bottle for up to 15 cents for each bottle. The price may vary based on your location. (U.S. News)
Batteries contain hazardous materials, which is why it’s so impactful to the environment when you recycle them.
Most people will simply throw them in the trash, though. That not only causes unnecessary hazardous waste, but it’s also throwing away an opportunity for profit.
Batteries are omnipresent in our society today, so there is no lack of available options to get the materials for re-sale.
You can get them from small appliances to car batteries, which could be sold for up to $12. (Dollar Flow)
Unfortunately, there is a lot of food waste in the U.S., but the good news is that it can be re-used for a few different things.
It can be used in compost piles, which can then be sold as fertilizer for soil. It can also be used to feed certain animals.
You have two options to start a business here. You can create compost yourself from your own food waste (or waste you collect from restaurants, for example), and then re-sell that.
Or, you could sell the waste to farmers who will give it to some of their animals.
You can potentially sell compost for $15 or $30 for a cubic yard. (O2 Compost)
There comes a time in the lifespan of every utensil where it’s simple not usable for cooking or eating anymore.
The good news is that you don’t have to throw these away — you can make money off them.
Utensils are made from a number of different materials, including copper, brass and stainless steel.
By collecting these used items from your family and friends, or purchasing them at discounted prices from restaurants and bars, you could resell them to companies that want to use the raw materials.
You can sell mixed copper brass for roughly $2.80 per pound. (ScrapStop)
This synthetic material is used in many things nowadays. It’s used in tanks, pipes, shades and even children’s toys.
One of the greatest parts about it is it can be recycled and reused. You could easily collect unwanted items from people in your neighborhood, and then sell it to companies that will melt it and reuse it.
Scrap PVC can be sold for roughly 11 cents per pound. (Resource Recycling)
If you want to go even broader, you could start a business that recycles plastic.
There is roughly 500 million tons of this waste generated each year, so there should be no shortage of opportunities to collect the material.
Depending on the type of plastic you sell — there are many different classifications — you could make roughly 9.63 pounds per pound. (Resource Recycling)
Some materials that are made of plastic are:
- Toys – Surprisingly, many toys have a lot of plastic
- Bottles – Water bottles and sports drinks are the most common
- Clothing – Even some types of clothing have plastic
Cardboard is another omnipresent material today. With ecommerce popularity soaring, everything seems to be shipped in a cardboard box.
That’s because the material can be recycled for future use.
This also provides a great opportunity for you to make money — both on your own cardboard and that which you can buy and/or collect from others.
You won’t make much per item, only about $1 per pound, but it can add up if you have a lot of volume. (World Scholarship Forum)
Some ways that you could collect the cardboard include:
- Your Own Supply – Simply collect all your used cardboard and sell it
- Other Family Members – Collect cardboard from friends and family to take it off their hands
- Businesses – Offer to collect and break down cardboard from businesses
- Office Complexes – You could help companies reduce their waste and storage
Recycling is a great way to help the environment, but it’s also a great way to make some money by starting a business.
The above ideas are just a few that you could launch to start making money in 2023.
Tim is a classically-trained journalist who loves to share knowledge and information with others. In the past, he has worked in TV, online and print media, and currently works with companies to help design, create and strategize their messaging.