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Recycling Business Model: How Do Recycling Centers Make Money


There are many benefits to running a recycling business. Not only is it good for the environment, but it can also be profitable. But how do recycling centers make money? This article will explore the various ways recycling businesses generate profits.


Recycling Industry Overview

The recycling industry is made up of two main sectors: primary and secondary.

The primary sector comprises companies that collect recyclable materials from households and commercial businesses. This is often done through door-to-door collections or drop-off centers. The collected materials are then sorted and sold to the secondary sector.

The secondary sector consists of companies that purchase sorted recyclables from the primary sector and process them into new products. These products are then sold back to businesses or consumers.

There are many different types of recycling businesses, each with its own unique business model. However, all recycling businesses share one common goal: to make money by diverting waste from landfills and turning it into something valuable.


How Much Money Do Recycling Centers Make?

The amount of money a recycling center makes depends on many factors, such as the type of business, the location, and the markets for recyclable materials.

Revenue ranges from $50,000 to $5 million annually for most recycling businesses. The average profit margin is 5-10%.


Types of Recycling Businesses

There are four main types of recycling businesses:

  1. Material recovery facilities (MRFs)
  2. Curbside recycling programs
  3. Bottle and can redemption centers
  4. Scrap metal recyclers

Each type of business has its own distinct way of making money.


Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs)

MRFs are large-scale operations that collect, sort, and sell recyclable materials to the secondary sector. They usually work with commercial customers, such as office buildings and apartment complexes, but some also accept residential customers.

MRFs make money by charging companies a fee for their services. They also generate revenue from the sale of sorted recyclables to the secondary sector. Revenue ranges from $1 million to $5 million annually for most MRFs.

Curbside Recycling Programs

Curbside recycling programs are often run by municipalities or private companies. They collect recyclables from homes and businesses and then sell them to the secondary sector.

Curbside recycling programs make money through fees charged for their services. They also generate revenue from the sale of sorted recyclables. Revenue ranges between $50,000 to $1 million annually for most programs.

Bottle and Can Redemption Centers

Bottle and can redemption centers are usually located in grocery stores or other retail locations. They accept empty bottles and cans from customers and pay them a small refund for each container.

The bottle and can redemption center then sells the recyclables to the secondary sector, which pays a higher price than the refund amount. This difference is how the center makes money. Average revenue is $50,000 to $200,000 per year.

Scrap Metal Recyclers

Scrap metal recyclers collect and process scrap metal from businesses and consumers. They then sell the processed metal to companies that use it to make new products.

Scrap metal recyclers make money by charging a fee for their services and by selling processed scrap metal to the secondary sector. Scrap metal recyclers can make between $50,000 and $5 million per year, depending on the size and scope of their operations.


Additional Ways Recycling Businesses Make Money

Let’s look at some other ways recycling businesses make money.

Selling Recyclable Materials to Manufacturers

One of the most common ways recycling businesses make money is by selling recyclable materials to manufacturers. Manufacturers use these materials to create new products, which are then sold to consumers.

This type of recycling business typically collects materials from households and commercial businesses. The collected materials are sorted and sold to manufacturers who use them to create new products.

Selling Recycled Products Directly to Consumers

Another common way recycling businesses make money is by selling recycled products directly to consumers. This type of business collects recyclable materials and sorts them into different grades. The sorted materials are then used to create new products, which are sold to consumers through retail outlets or online stores.

Many recycling businesses that sell directly to consumers focus on a specific type of recyclable material, such as aluminum cans, glass bottles, or plastic containers.

Operating a Recycling Facility

Another way recycling businesses make money is by operating a recycling facility. A recycling facility is a place where recyclable materials are brought to be sorted and processed.

Recycling facilities typically charge a fee for each load of recyclables they process. This fee covers the cost of sorting and processing the materials. The sorted materials are then sold to manufacturers or consumers.

Providing Recycling Services to Businesses

Many businesses generate large amounts of waste that need to be recycled. As a result, there is a growing demand for recycling services that can help businesses recycle their waste.

Recycling businesses that provide recycling services to businesses typically charge a monthly or yearly fee. This fee covers the cost of picking up and transporting the waste to a recycling facility.

Some recycling businesses also offer consulting services to help businesses reduce their waste output. Consulting services can include helping businesses develop recycling programs or choose the right type of recyclable material to use in their products.



Recycling businesses can generate income in many different ways. The most common way is by charging people for drop-offs. However, businesses can also make money by selling recyclable materials to manufacturers or by selling scrap metal. Some businesses also provide services such as document shredding. Running a recycling business can be profitable and rewarding. By understanding how recycling businesses make money, you’ll be better prepared to start your own business.