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How to make money by recycling

Kara Gammell
Written by  Kara Gammell
Alicia Hempsted
Reviewed by  Alicia Hempsted
10 min read
Updated: 04 Jul 2024

Getting paid to recycle may seem too good to be true, but you’d be surprised what you can earn from doing your bit for the environment. Here are five ways to make cash from what you’d normally consider to be trash. 

1. Cash in on old clothes 

Almost half of all used textiles in the UK are being thrown in the bin according to the latest research by recycling and circular economy charity WRAP. 

But did you know that you can trade in your unwanted clothes to a high street retailer, and they will reward you with a discount or voucher to spend instore? 

For instance, simply bring in a bag of unwanted clothes (including home textiles and shoes) to any H&M store and receive a £5 voucher for each bag. 

A partnership between Oxfam an M&S also brings the Another Life scheme to donate their clothes rather than discard them.

If you donate items to Oxfam, you’ll get a £5 M&S voucher off a £35 spend on clothing, home and beauty products in M&S stores as long as your donation contains at least one item of M&S labelled clothing or M&S soft furnishings (excludes sale and clearance items). 

What’s more, if you drop your pre-loved M&S school uniform into the Shwop box in the M&S kidswear department in selected stores, members of the retailer’s Sparks loyalty scheme will receive 20% off kids’ daywear direct to your app. 

Also, worth a look is Reskinned Takeback. With this site, you send in your unwanted, branded clothes and you will get a reward credit from the brand. 

Just visit the site, choose the items you want to return to the brand takeback basket. Every brand in the scheme has a different programme and credit value. Brands signed up to the initiative include Hush, Seasalt, Anthropologie and Oliver Bonus. 

The clothing is then either resold on the site, but if the garments don't make the grade they will be recycled responsibly.  


2. Make money from your old mobile 

Only one in five people exchanged their old mobile phone for money, either by selling, trading-in, or recycling according to Deloitte's 2022 Digital Consumer Trends report. 

The rest of us leave these old phones to gather dust in often forgotten cupboards or drawers.  

But why pass up the potential to turn your old handset into cash? 

It’s quick and easy to sell your phone with MoneySuperMarket.  

Just follow these three simple steps: 

  1. Compare quotes: Find your device using our tool at the top of the page, then look at all the offers available from the recyclers we work with. Use the filters to specify any details, such as your phone’s condition, storage size, and whether it’s locked to a network 

  2. Post your phone: Once you’ve selected an offer that suits you, you’ll need to mail your phone to the recycler. They’ll even send you a postage pack or printable postage label to use 

  3. Get paid: After the recycler has checked your device, you’ll receive your money by your chosen payment method, whether that’s by bank transfer, PayPal, or another way 

How much you’ll get for your phone depends on the handset itself and offers will depend on the make, model, age and condition of your device.  

Newer phones in good condition will likely be worth more than older models with wear and tear. Similarly, flagship handsets from the likes of Apple and Samsung will be worth more compared with mid-range devices from smaller companies. 

It’s worth noting, however, that phones always drop in price whenever a newer model is released. If you’re planning on selling your old phone, you might want to do so ahead of time. 

You can even sell a broken or damaged smartphone. Recyclers will break it down into its materials and parts.  

Anything that can be salvaged will be recycled and reused in other electronics, while any toxic materials will be disposed of safely. 

So, whether your old device has a cracked screen, several years of bumps and scrapes, or always overheats, you’ll still be able to get some money for it.  

Each recycler will have their own criteria for what counts as ‘broken’ and what they’ll accept, so be sure to check. 

To get the most accurate quote, it’s best to be as honest as possible about your phone’s condition. 

However, recyclers won’t accept phones that are significantly damaged – for example, if it’s water-damaged, or snapped in two. 

To compare quotes for broken phones, make sure to select the ‘Broken’ condition when searching for your device. 

If you’re sending off a phone, make sure you back-up any important data you wouldn’t want to lose – or inadvertently share with anyone else.  

The best thing to do is to transfer all the data from the phone or tablet to a computer and then format the device or return it to its factory settings. 

3 Swap shoes for discounts 

Official figures from WRWA show that more than 330 million pairs of shoes are bought in the UK every year, later to be discarded, ending up in landfill.  

The materials used in making shoes are not normally biodegradable. 

But the good news is that you can head to Schuh with a pair of shoes from any brand to exchange for £5 off a £25 spend voucher, valid on full-price shoes either in store or online.  

You’ll get one voucher per pair of shoes you take to be recycled. 

But it’s not just your little one’s footwear that can earn you cash. Adults can take unwanted shoes in for the same voucher. 

Find out more about Schuh's Sell Your Soles initiative here.

4 Sell your empties on eBay 

You’d be amazed what people will buy on eBay these days. Did you know that you could sell your jewellery boxes, empty candle jars and perfume bottles and make decent cash? What’s more, you’ll be keeping waste out of landfills too.  

A quick look on resell sites like eBay or Vinted will show such items like empty candle jars and perfume bottles selling for a pretty penny. Empty containers from popular brands like Diptyque or Le Labo can go for a surprisingly high price, so saving your empties from good brands is always a good idea.  

Other things to dig out of the trash and sell are makeup and perfume samples. 

5 Get freebies for beauty products 

Finished your face cream? Used the last of your lip balm? You can recycle your empty beauty product containers for free – and maybe even get something free in return.  

At Boots, the Recycling at Boots scheme awards Boots members 500 Advantage Card points when you bring five empty products to an in-store recycling bin and spend £10 or more when you visit participating stores. 

While Lush customers can claim 50p towards your instore shopping for each qualifying item you return for recycling. You can now also return your 10ml sample pots for an additional 5p off your shopping per item. Find out what qualifies for the recycling scheme rewards on Lush's website.

Prefer a fresh face mask instead? Just return 5 full-sized qualifying items and choose your mask. 

The Perfume Shop will give you a 15% discount voucher for returning your empty perfume bottles to the store as part of their recycling scheme. 

With John Lewis's Beautycycle scheme, My John Lewis members can visit John Lewis and bring in five or more clean, empty, plastic beauty product containers to any of the retailer’s beauty counters and get £5 off when you spend £20 or more on Beauty that day too.