Recycle Jars and Glass Bottles for Money: How and Where to Do It
Updated on: by Olivia
Not everyone recycles, especially in places where it’s not mandatory to do so.
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We know that recycling is helpful for the environment, but did you know that there’s another bonus for taking part in this activity? And it’s one that pays.
That’s right – you can get paid to recycle your glass bottles and jars by doing nothing more than turning them into a recycling center.
A few extra minutes each week to sort and transport your glass containers could give you extra money in your pocket.
Interestingly, it could even turn into more than just a casual side gig; it could become a business if you know where to look for glass bottles, live in a state with a “bottle bill,” and have the means to dedicate yourself to the tasks the business requires.
We’re going to go over all that in this ultimate guide to recycling glass jars and bottles for cash.
All About Recycling Glass for Cash
Yes, the simple act of recycling can give you more money outside of a job.
But it could even turn into a full-time job depending on where you live and how creative you get to make it work.
Here’s what you need to know about recycling glass items and making money doing so:
Where Can I Sell Glass Bottles and Jars?
First, let’s get the most important part out of the way.
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Currently, you can’t sell glass jars and bottles everywhere.
There are only a few states that have a container deposit, also known as a “bottle bill,” which is a law that allows you to turn in your glass containers for a few cents each when you recycle them.
There are 10 states that have some form of bottle bill, plus the territory of Guam:
- New York
How Do Bottle Bills Work?
When you recycle your glass bottles you bought in one of these states back to a recycling center in that state, you can get a few cents back for each of them.
The prices range from 2 cents to 10 cents per bottle, while Maine and Vermont offer extra (15 cents) for liquor containers, too.
These bottle bills are put in place to encourage people to want to recycle them.
When you purchase bottles in any of these locations with a container deposit, you’ll pay a little extra for your products in the form of a “deposit” paid to the distributor.
If you don’t return your bottles, the state can keep your deposit.
If you do return them, you’ll get your deposit back, hence paying you a bit for the ones you recycle.
Of course, you paid for that amount to begin with as your deposit, so you don’t really get anything extra back, right?
That’s true, but only if you’re returning only the bottles you bought.
What I want to talk about in this guide is a way to take this process one step further by collecting extra glass containers that other people won’t recycle and reaping the benefits from them.
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This way, you’ll not only get your deposits back, but you’ll also get back the deposits from other bottles and jars that you didn’t pay for!
Can I Travel Over State Lines to Sell My Bottles?
In most cases, no.
Many of these states have laws in place that would prohibit you from crossing state lines with your recyclables to try to sell them there.
And, because of the way the bottle bills work, your bottles wouldn’t be eligible for redemption in a different state than where you purchased them because that’s where the deposit was paid.
In fact, it’s illegal to try to sell glass containers to a different state than where you bought them.
You can learn more about this at BottleBill.org.
What Can I Recycle?
Each state with a bottle bill has its own specifications for what’s allowable to be recycled.
Generally, the following types of containers are allowed:
- Glass beer bottles
- Glass malt liquor bottles
- Non-alcoholic beverage glass containers (milk excluded)
- Glass soda bottles
- Glass water bottles
- Carbonated glass water bottles
- Glass jars or containers under one gallon
In addition to glass bottles and jars, many states allow you to recycle aluminum and plastic containers to also get a deposit back.
Maine and Vermont are currently the only two states that have a returnable deposit for 15 cents on liquor and spirits containers, while Maine additionally allows wine bottles.
How Much Can I Make?
As I mentioned, the highest amount you can make per bottle is 15 cents, but that’ll only happen in Maine or Vermont.
On average, you can expect to make 5 or 10 cents per container.
California, Michigan, and Oregon offer up to 10 cents for containers, while other states allow 5 cents.
You can view the full list of states and their pricing here.
So, let’s look at it from the perspective of the average household.
Your family may use 20 glass jars or bottles per week, which would give you, at the most, $2.
That’s not much.
But if you turn this into a crafty side business by offering to pick up recyclables from people in your area who don’t participate, then you could earn much more.
If you were able to collect 100 bottles and jars around your neighborhood, for example, that’s $10.
But, let’s say you started collecting from schools, local parks, and nearby businesses, and you were able to collect 1,000 in one week.
That turns into up to $100 quickly. And it may only take you a couple of hours to collect that many on a routine pickup.
We’ll get into this more in a bit.
Understanding the Law
There are a few things you should know about bottle bills before trying to turn in your items.
First, your glass bottles and containers must be cleaned out and not damaged or broken in any way.
When you turn them in, the center will need to go through each one to pay you fairly.
They’ll look while counting to make sure that no containers or bottles are cracked, broken, or dirty; if they are, you won’t be eligible for payment on those.
So, it’s in your best interest to inspect each one carefully first.
Next, I mentioned this already, but it’s important to stress: You cannot sell bottles to a state you didn’t purchase them from.
It’s illegal, so don’t get yourself in a tricky situation by trying it.
In fact, New York imposes a penalty of up to $100 per container, for a total up to $25,000 if you attempt to do this.
Finally, the bottle bill states require that each of your containers and bottles clearly shows the deposit label for the state in which you’re turning them in.
In most cases, this will be on the bottom of the bottle, but some are on the neck or side. Metal containers may have them stamped on the top.
Where to Bring Your Bottles
Who buys empty bottles and jars?
This, again, will vary by state.
Usually, you can return the bottles to a retailer at which you bought them (or any other retailer in the area that sells them) for refunds on your bottles.
You may want to call ahead and see what time is good for the retailer, though, so you can make sure there’s someone on duty equipped to handle your refund.
You can also look for a redemption center, which is usually a recycling or waste management center in the area that accepts glass bottles.
Google something like “Recycling centers that pay near me” to find one.
Retailers may be exempt from having to handle glass container refunds if they’re located within a specific distance from a redemption center, but this depends on the state’s rules.
Where to Collect Glass Containers
Now, let’s get into where you can find glass containers to boost your side gig into a real money-making opportunity:
Ask Your Neighbors for Their Recyclables
First, I’d ask the neighbors if they’re willing to collect their recyclables for you.
You can make it easy on them by providing containers for them to collect in (you can even grab cheap trash bins at a dollar store to hand out to the neighbors!).
You will probably need to still clean and sort through all the containers you collect from neighbors unless you have some really nice ones who are also willing to help you out by doing this themselves.
Then, have a weekly pickup day for everyone to place their bins on their porches or another easy-to-grab location for you to swing by and collect.
Not only can this reduce the litter in your neighborhood, but it’ll also significantly bump up your number of containers to give you a good profit (remember – you didn’t have to pay for any deposits on the containers you collect!).
You can advertise what you’re doing in the paper or hand out flyers around your neighborhood with a number where people can call or text you for more information.
Ask Local Businesses for Their Recyclables
You might also ask local businesses for their glass jars and bottles.
Restaurants and bars would be good ones to start with because they use so many glass containers and bottles for regular, everyday business.
Unfortunately, many already have recycling contracts in place, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
You can also call local grocery stores, coffee shops, and other places nearby that might be willing to have you collect their recyclables for free.
Don’t forget to offer them free collection containers, too.
Visit Bins at Local Places (or Ask to Place Your Own)
This one may require a call to your local offices to make sure you’re not violating any laws (in fact, I highly encourage you to do so – “dumpster diving” is illegal in many places).
If they say it’s okay, you can head to local places to go through the trash bins at parks and other outdoor places and find glass items patrons threw away.
It’s a messy job, but it’s likely that you’ll find several more containers to sell for a profit.
If you’re not given the okay to go through trash bins, you might ask your local officials if you can set out your own recycling bins around these places and collect them weekly or twice weekly.
It might just be a suggestion that benefits your city as much as it benefits you!
Conclusion: Recycle Jars and Glass Bottles for Money
While casual gathering and selling of glass jars and containers won’t make you much money, it’s still a good habit to get into that can pay you back for bottles you’ve purchased.
However, you can always take this process one giant step further by getting creative.
Think about how you can collect more glass bottles in your neighborhood, from businesses, etc.
Ask people you know – family, friends, co-workers, etc. – to save containers for you, but be diligent about providing containers and collecting items regularly.
You never know how big your business might get.
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