How to make money from recycling common household items – from print cartridges to tea towels

You could bank £100s a year

We don't know about you, but we're feeling the pinch at the moment. Pay day is still way off, and our cash flow has just hit a sizeable dam! We've tried all the usual tricks – scouring the house for things to eBay, emptying the piggy bank and switching for supermarket own brands, but it's not enough. But then we started reading up on how to make money from recycling, and we think we might make it to the end of the month, after all!

Have a good old clear out with tips from our care and cleaning section

If you want to make a little extra cash – either for yourself or for charity – think twice before you stick these in the bin!  

1. Make money from recycling old sheets and towels

bathroom with white tiles on wall and towel

(Image credit: Future PLC/Oliver Gordon)

If you're bedding's past its best or your tea towels are covered in food stains, don't just bin them. Take them to H&M. When you drop off your unwanted textiles in a H&M store (just ask for the garment-collecting box, often located next to the cash desks), you’ll get rewarded with a voucher. At present, it's £5 off when you spend £25.

Sister brand (and Digital Editor's favourite) & Other Stories runs a similar scheme. There, you'll get a 10 per cent off voucher in exchange for your donations.

If you like to donate to charity and don't want good causes to miss out, head to M&S. Bring in a bag of old clothes to be donated to Oxfam, and it will give you a voucher for £5 off when you spend £35.

Potential earnings: £5 per donation – a standard carrier bag's full usually does it

2. Make money from recycling printer ink cartridges

Granted, we're probably not printing as much these days as we used to. But if you get through ink cartridges on a regular basis, you could make a few quid – just visit The Recycling Factory and register for an account. Once you've signed up, you can enter the types of cartridges you use and see how much you'll get paid if you send them off to be recycled.

Values start at a few pence but you can earn as much as £3 per cartridge. The money can be paid directly into your bank account or to a charity (a good option if you're recycling cartridges at work) and postage is free. Once you've entered the cartridges you'd like to recycle, you'll be promoted to print a pre-paid label.

Potential earnings: up to £3 per cartridge

3. Make money from recycling tech

study room with white wall and tab flower pot on table and books

(Image credit: Future PLC/Oliver Gordon)

There are several ways of making money from old tech. It doesn't even need to be in mint condition – some will even pay for faulty phones that they can use for parts.

Music Magpie will give you money for old phones, games consoles, laptops and more. Just enter the details online for an instant offer. You'll then be sent a free post envelope for your device, and the money gets paid into your bank account. For example, an iPhone 5C with 16GB storage can earn you £29, or an old PS2 pays out £19.

Price comparison site Compare and Recycle goes one better, and checks where you'll get the most money for your old tech. Its latest research suggests you could get up to £60 for a Canon Ixus 120 digital camera and £250 for a working iPhone 7 (32GB). Incidentally, the latter was the most recycled phone in 2018.

If you have your eye on a new handset, phone suppliers like Tesco, Carphone Warehouse, GiffGaff and Vodafone have started offering trade-in services, whereby you'll get money off your new phone when you hand over your old one. Apple also offers this service – not just on iPhones but on iMacs, Apple Watches and iPads.

Potential earnings: anything from a few pounds to £500-plus for a Apple iPhone X (256GB)

In the market for new tech? Check out our expert buying guides!

4. Make money from not using paper cups

This isn't technically recycling, but rather 'pre-cycling'. Our national latte love affair means we collectively get through an astonishing 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups each year. Yet less than 1 per cent are currently recycled. To try and right this ecological wrong, big-name coffee chains offer discounts to responsible customers who bring their own reusable cups when they're ordering their morning cappuccino.

The best payer is Pret a Manger, which offers a 50p discount for customers bringing their own reusable cups. Costa, Paul and Starbucks will take off 25p, and Caffè Nero dishes out double loyalty card stamps, so you'll get your free drink in half the visits.

Potential savings: up to 50p per daily coffee

5. Make money from recycling empty beauty bottles

bathroom with white window sink and water faucet

(Image credit: Future PLC/Oliver Gordon)

Related: Clear the clutter with clever bathroom storage solutions

Again, it's tempting to just chuck them into the recycling bin, but you could be throwing money away! It does help to be brand loyal here, though. If you use Kiehl's products, it's worth keeping the empty bottles. For every one you return to a Kiehl's shop, you can get a stamp on a loyalty card. When you've got 10 stamps, you'll receive one free travel-sized product worth up to £9.

Lush does its best to keep packaging to a minimum. But where it can't, it will reward you for recycling. If you return five clean, used Lush black pots to their shops, you'll get a free, fresh face mask in return.

Other brands to offer free products in exchange for empty packaging include Mac, which offers a free gift in exchange for six empty lipstick tubes, eye palettes, foundation bottles, compact blushes or eye shadow pots. Ask about the Back To Mac offer in store.

Potential earnings: £9 from 10 bottles at Kiehl's

Keep coming back for more ways to recycle and earn!

Amy Cutmore

Amy Cutmore is an experienced interiors editor and writer, who has worked on titles including Ideal Home, Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc, Real Homes, GardeningEtc, Top Ten Reviews and Country Life. And she's a winner of the PPA's Digital Content Leader of the Year. A homes journalist for two decades, she has a strong background in technology and appliances, and has a small portfolio of rental properties, so can offer advice to renters and rentees, alike.