How to save money by recycling

Written by

Luke Hilton

Luke Hilton is a Warrington-based email content writer and designer in the financial services industry. He enjoys mixing analytics and creativity and can usually be found with his head buried in stats, piecing together the patterns that make good content. In his spare time, the drive to figure things out continues with what can only be described as a love-hate relationship with DIY. With a keen love of the outdoors, Luke is usually up a mountain somewhere or in his garden growing his own oasis.

Thursday 29th February 2024

It’s Global Recycling Day coming up on 18th March, so get ready to go green and make some long-lasting changes to your recycling habits.

Only 43.4% of household waste is recycled in the UK, with recycling rates continuing to fall. You can contribute to improving these figures this year by recycling where you can.

In this blog, we’re sharing nine ways to save money (and maybe even earn a bit of cash) when you get creative with your recycling.

1. Give your old items a new lease of life

Think twice before throwing things away – you’d be surprised how useful old household items can be when you upcycle or repurpose them. Old cabinets or bookshelves can be transformed into a beautiful new piece of furniture with a bit of TLC. You might need to roll your sleeves up and enjoy some DIY, but you’ll end up with a good-as-new bespoke piece that hasn’t cost you a fortune. Plus – it’s fun choosing an exciting new upcycling project to get stuck into.

Even small items can be upcycled – and potentially sold on – with a bit of creativity. For example, jam jars can be reused again and again – great for herbs and spices, or if you’re having a baking day and fancy creating your own jam or chutney. But they can also be transformed into something else entirely, maybe a candle holder, snow globe or a drinking glass?

2. Get crafty

Items that aren’t in good enough shape to be upcycled can still be reused. For example, tatty fabrics from clothes, towels or even bed linen could be turned into dusters and old toothbrushes can be used to clean those fiddly hard-to-reach areas of your bathroom. Scraps of wallpaper could make great wrapping paper, and the cardboard from kitchen or toilet rolls can be used for all sorts of DIY projects.

Get creative and really think about ways you could repurpose a product before relegating it to the bin.

3. Sell second-hand products online

You might not have need for old clothes, electronics or appliances anymore – but someone else might. Before throwing away anything in good condition, consider listing the item on sites such as eBay or Vinted. Not only could you make some money, but you’ll also be saving your old items from ending up in landfill and giving someone else a cost-effective way to buy the things they need.

Search for specialist companies such as CeX and Music Magpie if you’re looking to trade in specific items like games or tech.

4. Buy preloved items

While you can make money from selling items, you could also save money by buying preloved items from others too. Check out second-hand or giveaway sites to find brilliant bargains. You could save yourself a chunk of money and save valuable items being thrown away when they could still be put to good use!

Why not host a swap party with friends to exchange clothes and other items for free? You could end up with a great range of new things.

5. Earn money when you recycle

There are a range of recycling schemes out there that offer money or vouchers in return for your recycled goods.

Many reputable brands run their own recycling schemes too. For example, mobile phone providers may offer you a discount on a new phone when you sell your old one. And recycling schemes are becoming more popular amongst high-street fashion retailers too, with brands such as George, H&M, John Lewis, Marks and Spencer and Rapanui offering vouchers or money off in return for old clothing.

Looking to get rid of old tech? Check out Currys’ ‘cash for trash’ scheme to get at least £5 off your next eligible purchase when you recycle any old tech products in store. Trade Amazon devices directly with Amazon and get a gift card in return thanks to their Trade-In scheme.

There’s also an app that rewards you for recycling. With the Bower app, scan items as you recycle and get rewarded with points that can be converted into cash.

6. Get paid for cans, plastic bags and more

There are lots of organisations in the UK that may buy a bundle of aluminium cans from you. Think Cans estimates you’ll be able to get around 40-50 pence for each kilogram of cans (around 65-70 cans).

Why not set yourself a challenge to gather up old aluminium cans from your community and donate the money raised to a local charity?

If you have a bag full of plastic bags or packaging from previous shops, you may be able to take them back to your supermarket for recycling. Some supermarkets, such as Ocado, will even give you a small amount of cash for every bag you hand in.

7. Make money from 'pre-cycling'

You won’t need to think about recycling if you don’t generate waste in the first place. Many coffee shops across the country offer discounts for customers who bring their own reusable cups. So next time you’re heading out, make sure to bring your own cup with you instead of opting for the disposable option.

8. Reuse before recycling

Set yourself a challenge to buy reusable products instead of disposable ones. This will maximise the product’s lifespan before it eventually gets recycled. Yes, it’ll cost you more upfront, but you’ll produce less waste and save money in the long run as you won’t be constantly buying replacements.

Think outside the box when it comes to reusing items you already have lying around the house, too. You can use plastic shopping bags again and again, even using as laundry bags when you’re on holiday or simply fill with newspaper to create cheap and easy packaging material.

9. Compost food waste

Recycle food waste, and you won’t have to worry about buying pricey compost for your garden. You can simply create your own! This can help your garden to thrive while doing good for the environment too.

It’s a good idea to plan your meals each week to cut down on food waste too, leaving peelings and leftovers for the compost pile rather than throwing away perfectly good fruit and veg you just haven’t had chance to eat.

Learn more about recycling

One of the biggest challenges is understanding what you can and can’t recycle at home, and where to recycle all other items. Recycle Now is a great resource packed full of information to help you take control of your recycling.

What challenges will you be taking on this Global Recycling Day? Let us know on Facebook.