Maximize Your Recycling Business Profit Margin with 7 Recyclable Materials

keyKey Takeaways:
  • Considering high-value recyclable materials such as metals and electronics can lead to higher profit margins in the recycling industry.
  • Investing in advanced recycling techniques for difficult-to-process materials such as plastics can create new revenue streams and improve overall profitability.”
  • “Evaluating market demand and pricing trends for different types of recyclable materials can help determine the most profitable recycling practices to pursue

Considering the saying that, “one man’s trash is a treasure for another”, recycling is gaining a boom as the world is becoming environmentally conscious. People are sincerely undergoing waste reduction and recycling programs to not just conserve natural resources, but evenly contribute towards sustainable practices as well as reduce their carbon footprints.

Amidst all these developments taking place and the challenges being witnessed, the recycling businesses are significantly growing. 

The market value of global waste recycling services is valued at 55.1 billion U.S. dollars in 2020, which is forecasted to reach the value of almost 90 billion U.S. dollars, registering a CAGR of 4.8 percent during the forecast period 2021 to 2030. 

But hey, don’t you think that when you give so much towards environmental protection, you should even be rewarded with a thing or two? – Of course. 

That’s why here we dive into some strategies and practical tips that will help you maximize your recycling business profit margin along with attaining sustainable practices. Whether you’re already in the recycling industry or thinking of starting a recycling business, these insights will prove invaluable in achieving your goals.

A Shift Towards Recycling 

Americans consist of around 4% of the total population, though it produces 12% of the planet’s trash. This figure is quite dangerous when the statistics show that it is contributing in throwing away 4.9 pounds of trash per person every day – which is nearly around 1,800 pounds of materials per American every year. The majority of waste discarded by homes or businesses in the US is dumped into landfills or burned in incinerators.

Reports showed that the cost of dumping the waste is much more than the recycled one. For instance, the cost to recycle one ton is on average $30 whereas to put something in a landfill costs around $50 per ton and to incinerate the same costs $60 to $75 per ton.

Hence, keeping the statistics and data in mind, people started recycling plastic, cardboard,  and metal into sellable products like bottles and sheets of metal. This can be lucrative when you consider the below fact.

One million recycled cell phones produce 35,000 pounds of scrap copper, 700 pounds of silver, and 75 pounds of gold. And we all know the fact that these metals are never cheap.

Not just this, 

  • The recycling industry has been successful in driving over 500,000 jobs in America and started creating more than $100 billion in revenue. For instance, it created 6,81,000 jobs in the year 2012. This equates to the creation of 1.17 jobs for every 1,000 tons of materials recycled.
  • Along with this the metal, paper, plastics, electronics, textiles, and glass in the recycling stream are inherently valuable as seen in the example given above for cell phones. 
  • In spite of the fact that commodity markets do fluctuate, most of the recycling waste still commands high prices, especially materials like PET, used in water bottles, which can be sold for $309 per ton, or clear HDPE, used in milk jugs, can be sold for $734 per ton, on average in 2018.
  • Lastly, China’s National Sword Policy banning foreign scrap from recycling and waste management businesses of various countries across the globe was a wake-up call towards undergoing strong recycling practices. When China denied import of the contaminated waste, it started getting piled up in the home countries creating a surge to invest in domestic infrastructure, process our own waste, and deliver higher quality bales of recycled materials.

A good thing to know is considering all the factors listed above, urging to undergo recycling practices, the United States created more than 1.1 million jobs, $236 billion in gross annual sales, and $37 billion in annual payroll as per the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) reports.

7 Recycling Profitable Materials for Your Recycling Business 

After considering the need of undergoing sustainable recycling practices, what should be the mindset of recycling centers? It should be to identify and focus on profitable recycling materials which help them thrive in their recycling businesses. 

Here are some of the identified profitable recycling materials and unique ideas for a recycling business that can help recycling companies maximize their profit margins.

1. Textile Recycling

Under textile recycling, recyclers make money by recycling textiles which can include discarded clothing, along with other smaller sources including furniture, carpets, tires, footwear, and other nondurable goods such as sheets and towels. This can also include leather and rubber. 

The recycled material is then sold to companies that use them to manufacture new products. An instance of products created from recyclable materials are insulators and stuffing for pillows or mattresses. Another profit-making way from textile recycling is to burn them to create electricity and sell them back to power companies. This is however not an eco-friendly option due to smoke and other harmful pollutants released in the air.

As per the report circulated by IMARC Group, titled “Textile Recycling Market”, the global textile recycling market was valued at $5.2B in 2022 which is projected to reach $6.1B by 2028, exhibiting a growth rate (CAGR) of 2.85% during the forecasted period of 2023-2028.

Textile recycling offers several economic and environmental advantages. A few of them are,

  • It reduces the reliance on virgin fibers, minimizes land and water pollution, and decreases the use of chemical dyes. 
  • It also encourages sustainable and responsible production and consumption patterns, which are becoming more critical in today’s global climate.

The recent data by EPA suggested that textile recycling accounted for 6% of total recycling in the US.

2. Glass Recycling

Glass recycling turns up to 20% of all the materials sent for recycling. So it can be found that it is not that lucrative to recycle. However, due to eco-friendly reasons, it is still crucial to undertake glass recycling. 

Considering and acknowledging the fact that glass can take 4000 years to decompose in a  landfill, you can estimate the urgency to undergo glass recycling. Hence, glass recycling is a must to do the job regardless of profit margins. 

The recycled glass material is purchased as a substitute for sand, which is then used while making new glass. When it is used as a substitute for sand, it should cost less than sand for the businesses who want to make a purchase of it. But to your surprise, glass is one of the heaviest materials to transport making it a bit expensive.  

So, it can be concluded that although the recycling plants take a loss on glass they can easily save when it comes to energy. It is because the recreation of glass packaging from used glass takes 30% less energy and 50% less pollution than creating it from scratch.

The global recycled glass market size was valued at $4.14 Billion in 2020 and is projected to reach $6.56 Billion by 2028, growing at a CAGR of 5.94 % from 2021 to 2028.

3. Metal Recycling

No one can deny the fact that metal dominates the market. Scrap metal recycling is one of the lucrative businesses to conduct. When compared to plastic recycling businesses, scrap metal recycling plants have the potential to earn more profits due to the higher value of metals. 

However, one thing that can be looked into is ferrous metals, such as iron or steel, generates low-profit margins when recycled, however nonferrous metals like copper, brass, stainless steel, and bronze, are more valuable. 

Recommended: Recognizing the recent recycling trends and understanding the components of a recycling business plan can be fruitful for your recycling business, so give it a good read. 

4. Plastic Recycling 

Recycling plastic can be challenging to profit from, particularly if you don’t properly choose and separate the most expensive plastic varieties. Due to their poor value, some plastic recycling companies are even thinking about stopping the processing of mixed plastics. On the other hand, recycling cans and corrugated cardboard can be more profitable due to their higher value.

Plastic recycling

Depending on their market worth, certain plastic kinds can be recycled more profitable than others; at the moment, PET bottles and jars are among the most valued. The price of oil, which is used to make PET, has gone up, but this has also raised the price of these bottles and improved profits for recycling facilities. A different profitable kind of HDPE is natural HDPE.

5. Cardboard, Paper, and Fiber Recycling

In 2017, the US earned $3.2 billion from exports of scrap paper and fiber. However, the market for recycling cardboard is declining. Only less than 300,000 tons of corrugated containers were recycled. 

Nevertheless, still, there is a good return over recycling cardboard. Retailers like Kmart, Sears, and Target load their flattened boxes into the machines which come up as bales and the retailers can resell it for more than $74 per ton. On the contrary, groceries and big boxes used to recycle 90% to 100% of their cardboard.

The profitability of cardboard recycling is again interlinked with China’s National Sword Policy that bans no longer accepting bales of contaminated cardboard. An example of this is a pizza box with a piece of pizza left in it would not be accepted.

As a result of this, recycling plants are struggling to find buyers for cardboard due to the decline in Chinese exports. Resultantly, they have to bear the cost of piled-up cardboard waste ending up in landfills.

6. Electronic Recycling

Precious metals like gold, silver, and platinum are in-built into the circuit board of recyclable electric waste which has a higher market value. Recycling processes here include sorting, dismantling, mechanically separating, and recovering valuable metals. 

Because of the consistent technological advancements, the need for electronic recycling is on the rise. You will be amazed to know that every year the cell phones and other electronic waste we dump contain over $60 million in gold and silver. These figures are enough to determine how essential it is to carry out electronic recycling activities. 

Europe is the first one to rule over the global e-scrap recycling market in 2021 and Pacific  Asia and North America are expected to follow Europe next.

7. Wood Recycling

Wood recycling

Reclaimed wood is currently one of the most valuable materials for recycling. It can be collected from various sources, such as old buildings, decks, sheds, and fences, and sold to sustainable furniture brands. The wood can also be used to create sustainable flooring or natural wood bed frames, providing both eco-friendliness and profitability.


Recycling companies can be greatly profitable if they are managed effectively and can keep their costs low while focusing on maximizing their revenue. The profitability of the recycling business depends on various factors such as the type of material you are recycling, the type of recycling business you are carrying out, the efficiency of the recycling business operations, and the current market demand for recycled materials.

Recycling processes indulged in metals such as copper and aluminium are more profitable due to their high market value. Along with this, recyclable materials that provide innovative and eco-friendly solutions can be profit-making ones too. Electronic waste recycling is an ideal example of a profit-making recycling business.


Inching closer to the conclusive note, tell us what are you up to? When you already got an idea of how lucrative as well as sustainable carrying out recycling business is. So, what’s making you wait longer? Start practicing the above-mentioned profit-making activities for your recycling business and see what wonders it does.

Here, we discussed previously, optimizing your other recycling business operations cannot be neglected. And that’s why using a leading routing software like Upper can reduce your extra workload of route planning. 

So, without any further ado, start your 7 days FREE trial with Upper today and experience how advanced route planning and optimization can transform your recycling business.

Author Bio
Rakesh Patel
Rakesh Patel

Rakesh Patel, author of two defining books on reverse geotagging, is a trusted authority in routing and logistics. His innovative solutions at Upper Route Planner have simplified logistics for businesses across the board. A thought leader in the field, Rakesh's insights are shaping the future of modern-day logistics, making him your go-to expert for all things route optimization. Read more.