The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states that in 2009 Americans produced almost 243 million tons of municipal solid waste, which also is known as garbage. This agency recommends recycling to help save the environment and reduce waste. However, many businesses also promote recycling because they are able to make a profit from some materials.
The Shelby County government in Tennessee states that "aluminum is the most profitable material in recycling programs." The reason that aluminum is such a highly profitable recycled good is that the manufacturing technologies being used in 2011 are designed to be easy to use with recycled aluminum. The turnaround time for recycled aluminum is quick, allowing for businesses to quickly save and earn money from the recycled aluminum.
A group of students from MIT has recognized glass as one of the most profitable recycled items. According to this group, "glass containers have the simplest manufacturing process of modern containers." Because of the simple manufacturing process, glass can be made easily and does not require very much time before a company to start seeing profits. Also, because glass is easily breakable, an important step in the recycling process may be avoided if the glass is smashed and broken before even reaching the recycling plant.
Paper is rarely profitable to recycle because it can only be recycled 15 times before the material becomes too disintegrated to use. It also requires a lot of expensive machinery to remove the ink and other contaminants from paper. Computer paper, on the other hand, is the most profitable form of paper to be recycled. Jon Vogler, from Syracuse University, states that computer paper is often the most profitable paper to recycle because it is a high-grade waste paper with less problems to eliminate than other papers.
Industrial materials are the most profitable for individuals without expensive machinery who want to make money by recycling products. Consider visiting a scrap yard and selling your old car that has been rotting away in your garage for the last 30 years. You can sell old appliances, air conditioning units and computers to scrap yards. Selling materials like copper, aluminum and steel can result a lot of extra money for individuals who may have otherwise thrown away their products and received nothing.
- Shelby County Tennessee: How to Recycle
- MIT; Beverage Containers: Manufacturing, Recycling, and Public Policy; Abby Cohen, Jillian Hardy, Ioannis (John) Kymissis, and Kristin Rondeau
- Syracuse University; Small Scale Recycling of Plastics; Jon Vogler
- Pennsylvania Resources Council, Inc.: Recycled Materials
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Municipal Solid Waste
Kate Taylor is a professional writer based in Lafayette, Ind. She has served as an online copywriter in areas such as pet care, education and landscaping. Taylor is working toward her M.B.A. at Loyola University Chicago.