How to start a small recycling business

Updated February 21, 2017

You can start a small recycling business right out of your home if you have a garage or yard space for storage and a pickup truck, van or car with a trailer. There are recycling centres in most major cities and suburbs and if you bring them your recyclables, they will pay you for items such as paper, cardboard, aluminium cans, and some plastics. It's possible to make a full-time living from recycling. If your local recycling centre doesn't pay for the recyclables you wish to sell, there are companies online that will take them.

Obtain a business license from your local government business license office.

Visit a printer and have business cards and magnetic car signs made with your name and phone number displayed and the fact that you collect recyclables.

Collect recyclables by knocking on doors in your neighbourhood. Also check with local offices, particularly for their scrap paper. Many companies shred sensitive business documents, but not all.

Store the recyclables in a dry area, such as a shed, garage or on pallets covered with tarps in your backyard.

Take the recyclables to a recycling centre once you have collected several tons. They will be weighed and you will be paid per ton.

Revisit the homes and companies you collected from before every two weeks. Eventually people will have their recyclables set aside as they expect you to come by.

Expand your business by contacting schools and after-school programs such as the Girl Scouts. Offer to pay them to bring you recyclables as a fundraiser. Pay them half of what you will get paid when you sell it to a recycling centre.


You can offer to pay people you collect from for their recyclables, but it's probably not necessary. Most people are glad for you to take it away for them. As you grow and establish your collection route, consider hiring people to collect for you in your neighbourhood and pay them minimum wage. If you expand, you may want to rent a storage facility or warehouse space close to your neighbourhood where people can bring their recyclables to you and you can meet your storage needs.


Take care to lift heavier recyclables such as paper using your knees not your back. Consider purchasing a back brace or weight belt for extra support. Advise your helpers of the same.

Things You'll Need

  • Business license
  • Business cards
  • Magnetic car sign
  • Cell phone
  • Storage space
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About the Author

Katie B. Marsh is a self-published author, article writer, screenwriter, and inventor. After graduating from South Coast College of Court Reporting, she worked as a congressional and freelance court reporter for eight years. She began her writing career in 2005. Her content may be found on,, and She completed her first screenplay in October 2009.