Don't throw that away. There's money to be made from recycling your rubbish

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The Independent Online

The idea of recycling for cash conjures up images of scrap metal merchants. But as our cash is stretched, more of us want money for old rope – and for out-of-date gadgets, empty ink and toner cartridges or drained cans and bottles. In exchange, we earn from a few pence to £150 per item.

To make it worthwhile, smaller items need to be recycled in big numbers, and the reward isn’t huge. Sixty million ink cartridges are used in printers and photocopiers in the UK every year, of which just 10 per cent are recycled, according to The Recycling Appeal ( www.recyclingappeal. com ). Spent cartridges are worth up to 80p each, provided they haven’t already been refilled.

Aluminium cans usually have to be recycled in kilogram lots (more than 70 cans) which only earn you 40-50p. Some 300 cash-for-cans centres are dotted around the country and you can find your nearest facility with the help of www.thinkcans.com. The Campaign to Protect Rural England (www.cpre.co.uk) is pushing for Britain to introduce a scheme offering 10p per drinks can or plastic bottle.

A tradition dating to the 1950s of children returning glass soft-drink bottles to sweet shops for a few pence seems to have died out. However, the Scottish Executive has plans to introduce reverse vending machines where customers feed in bottles and receive a refund.

But the big money is to be made from out-of-date gadgets and old mobile phones that can be refurbished and resold. Price comparison site Moneysupermarket.com estimates that £1.4bn worth of old mobile phones are lying around which could be recycled for an average of £25 each. Depending on the handset, recyclers could get over £150 back.

“The average person has two old mobile phones, increasing to an average of three for those under the age of 20,” says James Parker from Moneysupermarket.com. “That’s a huge number of handsets that could be put to good use through recycling.”

Other companies are also getting on the recycling for cash bandwagon. British Gas recycles old mobile phones in return for discounts on energy costs at www.tradeinmymobile.co.uk .

Old computers can net you £60, or get you a discount on your next computer, and they don’t necessarily need to be in working order. Most independent electronics retailers either have their own scheme or can point you in the right direction. Be sure to strip your personal information from any hardware first.

Perhaps the biggest drawback to recycling for cash is that it hurts charities, many of which have their own schemes.

Help the Aged runs a fundraising scheme recycling toner cartridges, mobile phone and stamps. It can be found at www.helptheaged.org.uk/en-gb/HowYouCanHelp/Recycling .

Rachel Collander-Brown of Help the Aged, which raised £15,000 through mobile phone recycling last year, said it has already noticed a drop in donations.

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