As a professional picker and reseller, I’m always on the lookout for unexpected items that can be flipped for cash. And after more than 25 years of rummaging through thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets, I can confirm the literal truth of the old adage that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
If you’re looking to make a few extra bucks, check out what’s in your garbage can and recycling bins. Here is some everyday trash you can sell for cash.
1. Used packing material
In cities, there’s a strong market for used packing material, driven primarily by people who are moving or selling products online.
A quick search on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist in my area shows large lots of bubble wrap, packing peanuts and boxes selling for $15 to $25.
2. Empty perfume bottles
Running out of your favorite perfume? Don’t pitch the bottle. Used perfume bottles are repurposed to hold floral centerpieces at weddings or are used as scent diffusers. Small bottles in unique colors are even incorporated into jewelry.
Buyers favor bottles with striking designs, exclusive brand names, and stoppers or lids instead of spray-tops. Expect a group of 10 to 15 bottles to sell for $20 or more on Etsy.
3. Cardboard tubes
Yep, there’s a market for everything. Cardboard tubes that held paper towels and toilet paper are used in all sorts of ingenious craft projects.
Make it worth your while by saving a large quantity and selling them as a lot. A lot of 100 paper towel tubes has sold for as much as $34.99 on eBay (shipping included).
4. Parts from broken appliances
Just because an appliance breaks doesn’t mean it’s totally worthless. I noticed after my beloved Black & Decker rice steamer died that there’s a strong demand online for used parts and pieces. Steamer baskets were selling for $10 on eBay, and lids were going for about $5.
The lesson: If you love an appliance, thousands of other people probably do too. Harvest and resell the parts and accessories instead of tossing the whole thing out.
5. Old remotes, power cords and batteries
Because technology is advancing so quickly, it’s tough to find replacements for TV remotes, laptop power cords and batteries. Before you throw out that fried TV or obsolete laptop, check values online.
Used TV remotes can sell for $5 to $10 and, depending on the model, laptop batteries can fetch $15 to $45. Less garbage, more cash. What could be better?
6. Wine bottle corks
Enjoying a bottle of wine with dinner? Remove the cork carefully. Creative crafters have found dozens of ways to reuse corks. Save up a hundred or so (that shouldn’t take too long, right?) and sell them as a lot.
Remember, buyers prefer natural cork, not the synthetic version. I’ve seen 200 corks sold for a toast-worthy $21.99 on eBay.
7. Empty ink cartridges
Working from home? You’re probably using more printer ink than ever before. Instead of throwing away all those used cartridges, sell them.
Evolve Recycling buys empty cartridges, although users must send a minimum of 20 inkjet cartridges or 20 pounds of material (roughly four or five toner cartridges). When your account hits $25, Evolve sends you a check.
Review the list of accepted cartridges and start turning your office trash into awesome cash.
8. Spent car batteries
Get a little more juice out of that dead car battery. Auto parts stores — AutoZone and O’Reilly Auto Parts are examples — may offer $10 gift cards for the old lead-acid automotive batteries in your garage.
Since batteries are loaded with other toxic materials such as lead, cadmium and mercury, recycling is the responsible — and money-wise — thing to do.
9. Paper shopping bags
You’ve gotta love capitalism. Fanatical collectors will pay a premium for used shopping bags from desirable retailers. If you’re a packrat, start digging. On eBay, four vintage shopping bags from Macy’s have sold for $19.99, and eight Starbucks bags from the 2014-2019 era sold for $7.49. Bags from exclusive retailers like Gucci and Kate Spade can bring much more.