Can You Make Money Selling Bottles?

As of a few years ago, in 2017, people across the world have collectively been purchasing over one million plastic bottles per minute, and less than ten percent of that actually gets recycled. What happens to the vast majority of them? They’re thrown away, either on the side of the road or in the garbage.

But there is a positive side to this: that means there’s hundreds of thousands of bottles just waiting to be collected and recycled – for money – every minute. You can both help the environment and make money at the same time!

But can you actually make money this way? Yes, you can earn money by recycling bottles made from glass or various types of plastic. All you have to do is collect them and bring them to your local recycling center to exchange them for money. You could make up to $204 per 100 pounds of LDPE plastic – or more if you exchange bottles for their deposit! 

Of course, there’s a few keys to being successful, so let’s take a deeper look at the ins and outs of this whole process.

What Types of Bottles Can You Sell?

Many materials are used in the production of beverage bottles. Well, we’ve already written articles on how to sell aluminum cans and even scrap metal. So, for the purpose of this post, we’re going to be focusing on plastic and glass bottles specifically.

Recycling centers accept a wide variety of containers, including:

  • Beer bottles (glass)
  • Water bottles (plastic or glass)
  • Soda bottles (plastic or glass)
  • Condiment bottles (plastic or glass)

There are, however, some types of bottles you can’t recycle in some places, thanks to regulations. Those are things like:

  • Dairy product containers
  • Supplemental medicine containers
  • Wine bottles

These regulations and allowances can vary state to state, so it’s important to always check your local laws before you end up taking a trip down to a recycling center just to find out they won’t accept your truck full of milk jugs.  

How To Make Money Selling Bottles

The process is similar to that of selling old used batteries, or other used-and-disposed-of goods. It follows these three basic steps:

  1. Research which recyclables your state allows
  2. Collect Bottles
  3. Recycle and get paid

1. Research which recyclables your state allows

The first step you want to do before you even go out and start collecting. You want to research if there are certain materials or containers your state won’t recycle.

Obviously, if you can’t recycle them, you can’t get money for them. So, there would be no point in focusing your time and effort collecting a specific type of bottle when you can’t make money from it.

You can pretty much recycle glass and plastic all over, but there are different types. There is pretty much just the one type of glass used in bottles. Plastic, on the other hand, has a few different varieties, such as:

  • PET: commonly found in beverage bottles 
  • HDPE: commonly found in milk jugs
  • LDPE: commonly found in condiment squeeze bottles
  • PP: commonly found in syrup bottles or medicine bottles.  

As stated earlier, there are some bottles that are not allowed in certain states, like dairy product containers and supplemental medicine containers. So, that would mean that some states that would not allow HDPE and PP types of plastic, also called plastic number 2 and number 5 respectively.

2. Collect cans

As with other things, the next step is to collect a sizeable stash of bottles to turn in. This is arguably the most important part, because the more you can efficiently collect, the more you will make.

There are many ways to collect your bottles. Most people drink beverages or use products made from those materials, so there’s no shortage, you just have to know where to look. 

Try some of these ideas to get you started:

  • Ask your neighbors to throw their used bottles in your recycle bin
  • Collect them from your friends and family
  • Pick up littered bottles from the side of the road
  • Go collecting on garbage day in nearby neighborhoods

The key is to be creative. A lot of these methods will eat up your time if you only do one, so you should combine multiple methods.

One thing to note is that it is federally legal to go through people’s trash when it is on the side of the road (not while it’s on their property). However, some states and municipalities have implemented laws making it illegal to go trash picking – especially when it comes to recyclables.

So, while that method might be the most beneficial, it’s not the most recommended. If, however, you are set on wanting to go that route, check your local laws!

3. Recycle and get paid

Once you have collected your bottles and found out the state regulations for where you live, then all you have to do is turn the bottles in.

As simple as this sounds, you’ll want to do some research on a good recycling center near you. Keep in mind that some centers pay more than others, so you should look around to compare different rates.

Once you’ve found one and go to turn them in, you’ll get paid and can start the process all over again!

It’s also worth noting that you might get paid in cash or by check or electronic funds transfer, depending on the local regulations.

How Much Can You Make?

How much you can make can vary on where you live.  The national U.S. average is currently $10 per 100 pounds for glass bottles. Plastic prices can range depending on the type of plastic you have. Here are the averages for the most common types:

  • PET: $124 per 100 pounds 
  • HDPE: $57 per 100 pounds
  • LDPE: $204 per 100 pounds 
  • PP: $55 per 100 pounds

While certain plastic bottles might pay more per pound than glass, it’s worth keeping in mind the number of bottles you’ll actually need to collect to reach those numbers..

The average glass bottle weighs eight ounces, meaning you only need two to make a pound. Meaning, you would only need 200 glass bottles to walk away with $10.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to collect 100 pounds of PET plastic containers, you’ll need to collect a whopping 5,000 bottles! That’s because the average weight of a standard 16.9 ounce bottle is only .02 pounds.

So, even though you’d walk away with over 10 times as much cash, you need to collect over 20 times the number of bottles, which might not be worth your time.

Another thing to consider is the option of not getting paid per pound. There are ten states that have passed what’s called “container deposit laws.”

All that means is that when people purchase bottles of water or liters of soda, they’re paying an extra fee – between five and ten cents depending on the size of the bottle. The catch is that you can recycle the bottles and get that “deposit” back – that means you could earn up to ten cents per bottle!

To put that into perspective, let’s say you took that same 5,000 PET plastic bottles that you’d have to collect to make 100 pounds. But instead of selling them, you exchanged them for their deposit (at five or ten cents per), you’d make anywhere between $250 to $500!

Ultimately, that’s the most efficient avenue to take if your goal is to make money.

Are There Startup Costs?

Really the only startup cost is your time. There is no equipment or financial investments you have to make to get started. The only financial cost would be if you had to use some gas to get to and from your collecting sites.

The time you take collecting bottles will be the biggest investment. That’s because you could use that time for something potentially more lucrative – like door-to-door sales – or something where you’ll see a payoff a bit quicker, like distributing leaflets.

Benefits

  • Doesn’t require expertise or special skills to get started
  • There are basically no startup costs
  • It can seriously pay off if you’re patient and collect enough bottles

Drawbacks

  • Requires a lot of patience and time
  • Takes a while to see any payout for your hard work
  • There can be a lot of state to state regulations to look into

Conclusion

Overall, selling plastic or glass bottles can actually be a good way to bring in a decent income stream on the side if you’re patient enough to spend lots of time collecting containers without any immediate payout.

On top of that, there’s some states where you will have extreme difficulty finding success with this due to certain regulations prohibiting the most effective methods of bottle collecting – namely, trash picking.

Regardless, there are no startup costs, and no reason why you couldn’t give it a try if you want to. Hopefully this article helped you decide if it’s worth it for you!

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