Starting a Recycling Business With a Small Investment

Recycling Is Big Business But You Can Start Small

The waste and recycling industry offers several opportunities for someone looking to start a small business with a modest investment. You just need to find one or more waste materials that are being discarded that can be reused, resold, or recycled. Following are a few examples of recycling business opportunities that can be started on a small budget.

of 05

Place Recycling Bins in Neighborhoods

Stackable Recycling Bins

If there are no or too few recycling bins in your area, buy some. You can even customize them by purchasing plain bins and adding colorful stickers and different art variations that reflect the local community. Place them in commercial and residential areas, but be sure to place them where they will be useful and not a nuisance. 

Plan the location of your bins strategically, picking locations where you will get the right type of traffic depositing the kind of materials you want to collect. From there, clear out the bins regularly and sort the material. When you have a bulk amount, sell it to a scrap yard or a larger recycler.

Ripple Glass uses this approach successfully in the Midwest, as they place glass bottle drop-off bins in various locations. Clothing bins are also a popular variation on the theme. Make sure you get the permission of local authorities or property owners before placing bins. You don't want to create any ill will.

of 05

Buy and Resell Used Items

Flea Market
Peathegee Inc./Getty Images

If you enjoy yard sales, flea markets and local auctions, this is the business for you. All you have to do is buy underpriced items and resell them at closer to market value to generate a profit. Any number of valuable items may be underpriced by their owners, such as collectibles, art, antiques, retro fashions and furniture, and old audio equipment. Your best strategy is to become an expert on the value of goods in a few categories. If you are looking for something specialized, contact sale organizers beforehand to see if they are selling the type of product you buy. It will narrow your search.

of 05

Refill Toner Cartridges

HP PageWide - toner cartridge-like page yields.

Toner and ink cartridges used in printers, fax machines, and photocopiers can easily be recycled by replenishing the ink supply, but few businesses or individuals take advantage of it—leaving an opportunity for a small scale business. All you need is toner ink refilling skills, a few tools to do the job, and transportation to get to your customers. You'll have a great competitive advantage over retailers of new toner cartridges because you can offer your refills for about half the price and still make a profit. 

of 05

Collect Scrap Metal

Scrap Metal
Barry Austin/Getty Images

There are plenty of opportunities in scrap metal collection and sales. The start-up cost can start as low as $2,000, and you can expand your business over time. You'll need a pickup truck or utility trailer, net and tie-downs, and some basic tools and personal protective equipment such as gloves and safety shoes. Scrap metal can be picked up from homeowners, renovation projects, and other sources and then resold to larger recyclers. The manual labor for collecting scrap metals is more than most recycling businesses.

of 05

Resell Computers and Computer Parts

Computer recycling is another business opportunity that's worth considering. In addition to fixing computers, you can sell their reusable parts such as disk drives, hard disks, and processors. Some companies will even purchase the motherboards to extract and process the valuable metals within them. You can also sell used computer appliances such as monitors, keyboards, mouses, and computer cases.


When considering starting a recycling business, you should first research this area to determine if it is feasible and would generate a profit. Depending on the type of business, you may want to create a business plan, research the competition, and review your location's business recycling policy. This information can help you decide if your business idea can turn into a profitable recycling business.