Save and Earn Money While Helping the Planet

colorful trash cans sitting next to each other

You heard that right. In observance of Earth Day, Monday April 22nd, we are putting our focus on if it’s possible to combine one of our favorite things (earning extra cash & saving cash) while doing our part to help Mother Nature. Spoiler alert: it’s possible, and even simple!

Did you know that the average American generates over four pounds of trash every day? According to, Americans are throwing away around 28 billion cans and bottles daily that could be recycled. This is especially upsetting considering about 87% of Americans have access to a curbside recycling program.

Recycling 101

One of the best ways that we can make a difference with the overall health of our planet is to reduce the amount of waste that we are producing. Meaning, taking the time to ask yourself “Can I recycle this?” before opting to throw garbage away.

Here is a quick list of items that you should be recycling:

– Aluminum (cans, foil & bakeware)

– Steel & tin cans (think, soup and vegetable cans)

– Corrugated cardboard, magazines, office paper, newspapers, phone books, etc.

– Glass (all varieties including; clear, brown & green)

– Plastic

– Batteries (car, household, rechargeable)

– LED & fluorescent bulbs

– Electronics (limited, see full list for details)

It’s important to note that CLEANLINESS is very important when it comes to recycling. Make sure you are thoroughly cleaning out any of the above items (particularly anything that once held food) before putting in the recycling bin.

According to Waste Management, “One dirty product, or one with food waste still in it, can contaminate an entire bale, containing thousands of pounds of collected plastics.” This can result in thousands of pounds of potentially recyclable materials going to the landfill.

Recycling to earn money

Like we mentioned above, recycling is very important. So important, that it can literally pay to recycle your items. You can recycle items from cans to even large items like scrap metal.

Aluminum cans

Aluminum cans are easy to collect and are used by many people so accumulating a lot can happen quickly. This along with the fact that aluminum cans are regularly the main proponent of littering, make gather aluminum cans an easy way to make fast cash.

Also, some states in the US (including California) have “bottle bills” in place that pay a higher amount for recycled items. These states have the potential to earn five to 10 times more than other states. Collecting 1000 cans could put $100 in your pocket.

Start by asking neighbors, picking up around local parks or outside convenience stores, along streets or your workplace to find cans that could be recycled for cash.

Scrap metal

Recycling scrap metal is probably the most lucrative way to make quick cash; however, it’s also the most difficult. One, because typically scrap metal isn’t just lying around. Two, if it is lying around, you would have to get permission from the owner of the property to recycle said scrap metal. Three, scrap metal is typically heavy and difficult to haul.

All things aside, it can be done, and it pays to know your metals as they are not all created equal when it comes to getting paid. View this full list for more information on how you can optimize your metal scraping strategy. There is also a community page to learn more from other scrapers in your area here.


Old electronics that you have may still hold value, even if you’re not using them any longer. If the device still works, it can be sold on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist as is or even for parts. Make sure that you wipe the device of any personal information before the sale.

You can also recycle or donate the item through various programs found here. Even some tech companies will purchase old electronics through various programs.


Did you know that it’s illegal in California to throw away batteries? Even single-use batteries. Avoid a fine by dropping off any and all batteries that no longer work at one of these locations if you’re in or around the Los Angeles area.

Furthermore, you can sell them, albeit they don’t go for a lot of money, by Googling “scrap battery buyers” and your location.


For those that love to read but have now found themselves with piles of books that they won’t read again, there are options. First, you could donate to a local school or your local library to get payment in good karma and fuzzy feelings.

If you’re looking for a cash reimbursement of your books, try or sell to a local used book store by Googling “used book store” and your location.

Cardboard boxes

You know all those Amazon purchases you made over the Holidays? Savings those shipping boxes could make you money. Locals can sell their boxes via Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist to others that are moving in their area.

Local selling platforms not for you? Use or to sell old cardboard boxes.

Start a garden

Reduce your grocery bill by supplementing some produce purchases with your own garden. Apartment or home, there are ways to make a garden that will fit your space.

For those that are working with only a balcony or small area, use small plant containers like these to plant herbs like basil, cilantro, parsley, sage and/or rosemary. You can also get away with smaller vegetables like cherry tomatoes in these containers.

If you have more space available, you can plant larger items like heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, corn, peppers and lettuce. Taking care of your garden can not only save you money on produce, if you have enough extra, you can sell to your neighbors or a local farmer’s marketing to make additional money.

Sell items typically tossed

Believe it or not, there is a large market for wine corks and other craft materials such as toilet paper rolls and egg cartons, even “huge” pinecones. Most of these are sold on eBay, and you can find a complete list here.

Crafters use eBay to purchase items for lower amounts than what they would find at a typical store. Since this is such an odd thing to sell, saving these up and profiting rather than tossing is a great idea! If you don’t have an eBay account, you can set one up by following this link.

Bottom line, no matter how much or little you recycle, every contribution helps Mother Earth. The fact that you can earn or save some money along the way is just an added perk. Make a difference by challenging yourself to recycling (even if it’s just one item!) every week.

For more information about recycling and how you can make a difference, search for local recycling programs in your area.

Net Pay Advance is a licensed loan provider, locally owned and operated in Wichita, Kansas. Our No. 1 priority is helping you, the customer, by providing access to the cash you need and helping support financial independence goals with valuable, informational, and entertaining content. Stay up-to-date on our posts by following the Net Pay Advance Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages. Our organization is committed to transparency; learn more about our authors and editorial policy. The information provided within this blog is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as financial or legal advice. Please contact us if you have any questions.

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