Turn rubbish into rewards: How you can earn cash or discounts by recycling household items

Recycling is the right thing to do for the planet but with more incentivised recycling schemes being introduced, it could also be good for your wallet. 

A number of companies are now encouraging customers to reduce waste by paying them a reward for recycling everything from bottles, cups, bags, cosmetic packaging, ink cartridges and contact lenses.

The incentives differ in terms of generosity as well as type with payments made in cash, vouchers, discounts, freebies, loyalty points and charitable donations. 

The incentives differ in terms of generosity as well as type with payments made in cash, vouchers, discounts, freebies, loyalty points and charitable donations

The incentives differ in terms of generosity as well as type with payments made in cash, vouchers, discounts, freebies, loyalty points and charitable donations

The incentives differ in terms of generosity as well as type with payments made in cash, vouchers, discounts, freebies, loyalty points and charitable donations

But only a minority of people are taking advantage according to research by shopping discount website TopCashback.

It says only 8 per cent of people have ever received an incentive for recycling. Few are aware such schemes exist.

Adam Bullock, a director at TopCashback, says: ‘Beyond what we should be putting in specific wheelie bins, recycling isn’t necessarily at the forefront of everyone’s minds. But lots of brands and organisations now offer incentives to encourage consumers.’

Jessica Broderick has received nearly £200 worth of free lipstick simply for returning old make-up packaging under a recycling scheme provided by cosmetic company MAC.

The ‘back to MAC’ scheme entitles customers who return six empty containers to a free lipstick – worth around £17.50. 

Jessica, 30, is a married estate agent from Accrington in Lancashire and is currently on maternity leave looking after four-month-old son Ayrton.

 She says: ‘Anything plastic can be returned. For someone who loves make-up, this is fabulous. But most people I speak to about MAC items are not aware of the scheme’s existence.’ 

Companies are now encouraging customers to reduce waste by paying them a reward for recycling everything from bottles, cups, bags, cosmetic packaging and ink cartridges

Companies are now encouraging customers to reduce waste by paying them a reward for recycling everything from bottles, cups, bags, cosmetic packaging and ink cartridges

Companies are now encouraging customers to reduce waste by paying them a reward for recycling everything from bottles, cups, bags, cosmetic packaging and ink cartridges

High street brand Lush treats customers to a free fresh face mask when they return five black recyclable pots.

Companies that pay you to recycle  

‘Reverse vending machines’ are now being used to boost the recycling of used plastic bottles. 

These pay out 10p for each bottle deposited. Iceland introduced the machines in stores last year and has paid out more than £30,000 to shoppers. 

Other supermarkets, including Tesco, are following suit. Meanwhile, Ocado pays 5p for any plastic bag returned.

Theme park lovers are also hoping for a return this year of the popular Coca-Cola scheme, in partnership with Merlin Entertainments.

Reverse vending machines at Thorpe Park, Alton Towers, Chessington World of Adventures and Legoland Windsor accepted 500ml plastic bottles of any brand and would issue a 50 per cent discount voucher in return. 

These half-price vouchers could then be used at 30 UK-based Merlin attractions, including Madame Tussauds or nationwide SeaLife Centres.

Recycling vouchers can be used at Merlin attractions, including Madame Tussauds

Recycling vouchers can be used at Merlin attractions, including Madame Tussauds

Recycling vouchers can be used at Merlin attractions, including Madame Tussauds

Retailers H&M, Monki and Marks & Spencer also encourage recycling of clothes and textiles.

H&M and Monki allow customers to return unwanted clothes from any brand in any condition and receive a 10 per cent discount voucher on the next purchase. 

Marks & Spencer’s shwopping scheme involves people donating unwanted clothes and receiving 50 ‘Sparks’ points under its loyalty scheme.

Alternatively, if someone donates an old M&S item of clothing to an Oxfam store they can receive a £5 voucher to spend at an M&S store for purchases worth £35 or more.

Beauty group Garnier aims to boost the philanthropic efforts of customers by partnering with TerraCycle, which collects consumer product waste and raises money for charities worldwide. 

Every item of Garnier packaging posted to TerraCycle is worth points, which translate into charitable donations.

TerraCycle has also just launched the first national recycling scheme for contact lenses and related packaging. 

Wearers can drop off any brand of lens in one of more than 600 recycling bins at Boots Opticians as well as independent opticians throughout the UK.

Coffee lovers are invited to do their bit too by bringing their reusable cups in-store and earning discounts. 

Pret A Manger cuts the price of a cup of coffee by 50p for the environmentally conscious. Starbucks and Costa knock 25p off.

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