In the 1970s a sitcom called “Sanford and Son” offered a glimpse into the life of a junkyard dealer. What a concept: Make money through garbage!

While I am a fan of Redd Foxx, I'm not willing to turn my backyard into a salvage yard in order to make a few extra bucks. Luckily, with the popularity of eco-living and abundance of green options available today, I don't have to! I have discovered that I can be a bit of a "fox" in my own way: I now earn rewards, spend less, and, yes, even make money from my garbage.

How to Turn Trash into Cash

  1. Join RecycleBank. This free online sustainability community allows users to earn points for learning more about eco-friendly living, taking green actions, and making pledges to protect the environment. Well-known companies like SC Johnson, Dove, Lipton, Suave, and many others sponsor activities online that teach users about the environment and challenge them to make environmentally-conscious choices. Typically, these sponsored learning activities earn anywhere between 5 and 50 points. Then, continuous choices–like recycling Kashi boxes—earns 50 points per trip to the recycling center. There's also a daily online pledge to take (5 points) and an online EcoAcademy; completing all the activities in the academy takes less than an hour and yields over 800 points! Points can be redeemed for coupons, magazine subscriptions, gift cards, and more. For example: $1 off two Ziploc containers (30 points), $10 off two entrees at Ruby Tuesday (100 points), a one-year subscription to Entertainment Weekly (250 points) and a $10 Wal-Mart gift card (2,500 points).
  2. Turn Metal into Money. Some trash can be turned into actual cash! Aluminum cans can be recycled at facilities throughout the U.S. at anywhere from 40 cents to $1.00 per pound (it takes about 30 cans to yield a pound). In addition to cans, many facilities take other aluminum objects (such as foil, bakeware, and auto parts). Scrap metal facilities also pay by the pound for excess brass, copper, stainless steel, and other metals. Here's an example of metal prices from a facility in Texas. Search online for facilities, or call your local city's municipal office for information about companies in your area.
  3. Rethink What You Pay for Garbage Service. Whether you pay a dumpster usage fee at an apartment or pay for curbside service at a home, reconsider how much you are throwing away (in money and in garbage each month). Is the fee you pay negotiable through your apartment complex or homeowners association? Can you cut back the amount of service you receive for a reduced cost? Or would it be possible to try another option, like a local pay-per-bag waste disposal site or county center? This article provides more information and further ideas on how to cut garbage service costs.
  4. Upcycle Electronics and Office Items. Many things old can be made new again, and that's the idea behind "upcycling." Turning an unusable item into something new and of value is not only environmentally sound, it can also produce some cash. Staples gives $2 rewards for used ink cartridges, and BestBuy gives trade-in credit for certain products. Sites like Gazelle pay for electronics, whether in working condition or not. So think twice before tossing that old computer, camcorder, or scanner: someone just might pay you for it!

So if you want to open a junkyard, go for it! For me? I'll stick to the steps above.

This is a guest post by Audrey from Texas
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Junkyard 101: Turn Trash into Cash