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The U.S. are one of the most ecologically conscious countries in the world, and, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, recycling has been steadily increasing through the years.

The municipal solid waste (MSW) generated in 2017 was 267.8 million tons, or 4.51 pounds per person per day. Of the MSW generated, around 67 million tons were recycled and 27 million were composted. 

If you wanted to start your own recycling business in 2021, the U.S. Government has put in place a massive amount of tax deductions based on your state of residence.

The federal government offers businesses a tax credit for the depreciation of recycling machinery or equipment. 

However, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 25 states offer property, sales and income tax incentives for businesses that purchase recycling equipment.

municipal solid waste generation in US graph

Altogether, more than 94 million tons of MSW were recycled and composted, equivalent to a 35.2% recycling and composting rate.

On top of that, 34 million tons of MSW (12.7% of the total) were combusted with energy recovery.

While it is important to contribute to the protection of our environment, businesses dedicated to recycling and reprocessing of waste have been thriving.

consumer access plastic recycling infographic

Now is the best time to combine a strong ethical choice with a lucrative enterprise, and start your own Recycling Business!

The numbers are simply incredible, as the chart below clearly shows:

  • The recycling industry is a powerhouse, providing over 500,000 jobs in the U.S.
  • The whole industry in the U.S. creates more than $100 billion in revenue.
  • In 2019 Goldman Sachs, Citi, Google and Engie, invested more than $210 million in companies that are building a circular (based on recycling) economy.
  • Materials like PET, used in water bottles, sell for around $310 per ton.
  • Materials like clear HDPE, used in milk jugs, sell for around $735 per ton.
  • Due to the volatility in oil the market, more and more companies are turning to more reliable means of obtaining oil byproducts: ie. recycling businesses.

The principle behind a Recycling Business is very simple: Take a waste product nobody wants, process it, and turn it into something valuable that you can sell for a massive profit margin.

The beauty of recycling is that your raw materials are incredibly cheap. In some cases, people will even pay you to come and dispose of these recycling materials!

At the same time, starting a recycling business is a complex matter, many things need to be thought out before even starting, and the start up costs can be considerable. You will need:

  • Specialist recycling machines, which varies in price from $10,000 to $100,000.
  • A physical place to set up your business in of approx 500 sq ft or more.
  • Employees, like machine workers, admin. and recycling experts (key!).
  • Vehicles to collect waste and deliver the recycled product.

Whichever business you do end up choosing, you’ll feel confident that you’re contributing to society in a meaningful way.

And even if the idea of your business being respected among your local community doesn't appeal to you that much, rest assured that more and more investors have started pouring money into the recycling business.

lakeshore recycling system infographic image

There are many different types of business you could get involved with. Some just might appeal to you more than others, but every single one of these ideas
operates under the same basic principles of a recycling business…

 And that means every single option in this list is incredibly profitable. Here is my list of 20 profitable Recycling Businesses that you can start in 2020!
hand holding recycling globe image

1) Plastic Recycling

One of the most common Recycling Businesses available is a Plastic Recycling Business.  Plastic waste is easy to get hold of, and it represents your source of income.

Today, more than 94% of Americans can recycle plastic bottles locally, and more than 70% of us can recycle flexible wraps and bags at 18,000 grocery stores across the U.S.

You can also transform the plastic you have recycled into something you can resell, and that is where the major sources of income can be found:

The commodity value of waste plastic may be in excess of $300 per ton when used in processes providing high-value chemical products. As a 2019 article suggests, 'recycling isn't about the planet, it's about profit'.

deparment of sanitation recycling image

A Greenpeace article has suggested that the U.S. do not have enough Plastic Recycling businesses because of China stopping its waste imports and local facilities not being nearly enough to process the incredible amount of plastic waste.

That's where your new business will come in and take advantage of the abundance of waste plastic. In 2020, you will never run out of your main source of income: you may easily obtain a government grant to set your business up!

recycling data in us image

2) Paper Recycling 

Since the Chinese ban on U.S. waste import, another economy that is thriving locally is Paper Recycling.

The Pratt Industries mill in Wapakoneta, Ohio, for example, was created in October 2019 and processed 180,000 tons of mixed paper in its first year of existence.

A business deal with government offices or any big consumer of paper in your city could let you obtain your primary resource for free, and the recycling and reselling of mixed paper has the potential of skyrocketing in the 2020s.

paper usage in us infographic image

Once you have collected the paper,  you simply feed it into machines and create
paper pulp. This methodology requires a lot of water, so that’s something to keep in mind, when drafting a business plan.

Recovered paper prices boosted during COVID-19 pandemic, as can be seen in the video below.

3) PVC Recycling

PVC is manipulated with chemicals during its production, to be used as household fabric or as construction piping. The additives used in its creation and the high presence of chlorine make PVC harder to process than other plastics.

Yet, PVC plastic is the third most common type used in the U.S. bottle industry, with a 0.8% market share (behind PET plastic and polypropylene).

More than 7 billion pounds of the PVC is thrown away every year in the U.S., and only 0.1% to 3% of it is recycled. This grants investing in PVC recycling incredible margin of returns of investment!

PVC is typically used to construct pipes, tanks, and other industrial supplies, although even everyday items, like certain bottles for home detergents or window frames, or even children's toys use PVC.

To recycle PVC, you’ll need different machinery and a different strategy for
marketing and sales. 

So you might decide to expand your plastic bottle recycling business to include new PVC recycling machinery. A PVC business is perfect for expanding existing recycling businesses, or as a standalone business with great profit margins.

4. Cardboard Recycling

You would think that recycling paper and recycling cardboard would be very similar in the process, but you'd be wrong!

More than with paper, cardboard first needs to be compacted by a baler, or compressor.

Having said this, the necessity to recycle cardboard is just as pressing as that for recycling paper, and the two businesses often go hand in hand. Here is why recycling cardboard is a sought out enterprise.

  • Recycling cardboard takes 75% of the energy need to make new cardboard.
  • Recycling cardboard produces 50% less sulphur dioxide than making cardboard from raw materials.
  • Corrugated cardboard boxes are made from 75% recycled material and can be transformed from recycled material to finished product in as little as 14 days.
  • Recycling just one ton of cardboard will save 46 gallons of oil, 4000kW of electricity, 6.6 million Btu’s of energy, 9 cubic yards of landfill space, 17 trees and 7000 gallons of water. 
  • In 1993, a national program known as the US Paper recovery saved more than 90,000,000 cubic yards of landfill space by recovering paper and cardboard that had been thrown away by consumers.
100% recycled symbol image

In 2020, 80% of products sold in United States are bundled in cardboard, and, together, cardboard and paper make up for 41% of solid waste. In the U.S., 850 million tonnes of paper and cardboard are thrown away every year.

 This crazy abundance of recyclable material should make you seriously consider starting a business in Cardboard Recycling, and, while profiting,  you'd also help save the 1 billion trees that each year are cut down to create enough paper and cardboard for all of the U.S.!

recurring life of recycled cardboard box image

5) Recycling and Processing Scrap Metal

Scrap metal is possibly the most lucrative niche within the Recycling Business: the Environmental Protecion Agency has been monitoring scrap processing  very closely and a 2017 study shows very interesting data.

That year, the recycling rate of all materials in appliances, including ferrous metals, was 60.3 %. Overall, the Agency estimated the recycling of ferrous metals to be 27.8 % (4.7 million tons) in 2017.

Check out this video to see how a small scrap metal recycling venture expanded to a multimillion business in the space of less than 30 years!

Of course you can expand your business to non-ferrous metals, like copper, aluminum and lead. In fact, copper and aluminum can be the materials that end up making you rich, according to the site Scrap Monster.

Steel is another winner, with the EPA calculating the recycling rate for steel cans to be 70.9 percent (1.1 million tons) in 2017. Additionally, the analysis found the recycling of approximately 420,000 tons of other steel packaging that year.

This Top 7 Most Valuable Scrap Metals updated to May 2020 can give you an idea what to go after!(source: metalmenrecycling)

  • Copper: found in cables, old electrical appliances and plumbing works. 
  • Brass: any object that looks like gold but you know isn't, such as candlesticks, plates, trophies and bed frames. 
  • Silver: old jewelry, silverware, medals, or antique vases you might find . 
  • Aluminum: not only found in cans, but also in computer components and bikes.
  • Stainless Steel: one of the most commonly recycle materials, it may be found in kitchen equipment, factory machineries, and, of course, in cars.
  • Gold: found in small amounts in computer parts and other hi-tech products.

6) Recycle Old Computers and E Waste

“E-waste” is basically a blanket term that covers all electronic waste items, such as
microwaves, calculators, blenders, mobile phones, tablets, and many more.

 While computers technically fall into this category, this is a much broader recycling business which allows you to target a wider range of raw waste materials.

Basic facts about E-Waste in the U.S.:

  • E-waste represents 2% of America's trash in landfills, but it equals 70% of overall toxic waste.
  • Cell phones contain high amounts of precious metals like gold or silver. Americans dump phones containing over $60 million in gold/silver every year.
  • For every 1 million cell phones that are recycled, 35,274 lbs of copper, 772 lbs of silver, 75 lbs of gold, and 33 lbs of palladium can be recovered.
  • Recycling 1 million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by 3,657 U.S. homes in a year.
  • E-waste is still the fastest growing municipal waste stream in America, according to the EPA.
  • It takes 530 lbs of fossil fuel, 48 lbs of chemicals, and 1.5 tons of water to manufacture one computer and monitor.

E Waste recycling is clearly a profitable business: not only is it a relatively new business in which it will be easier to carve a niche for yourself, but all the precious metals involved in the construction of electric appliances make it a very lucrative enterprise!

resources salvaged from mobile phones image

7) Recycle Batteries

In everyday life, batteries supply power to electronics such as toys and power tools, but batteries also also work where we don't necessarily see them. For example, during a power outage, phone lines still operate while equipped with lead-acid batteries.

As the EPA informs us, 'batteries help control power fluctuations, run commuter trains, and provide back-up power for critical needs like hospitals and military operations'.

Why recycle batteries? What are the numbers?

  • As reported by the Environmental Protection Agency, each year Americans throw away more than three billion batteries.
  • The quantity, in the U.S. alone, reaches almost 180k tons in weight.
  • If joined end to end, these dead batteries alone would circle the world at least six times.
  • Apart from single use batteries, 14000 tons of rechargeable batteries are thrown away each year in the U.S. 
  • Batteries are a hazardous waste. When that battery enters a landfill the casing can be crushed and this causes mercury and other toxins to leach into the environment around us.
  • Batteries contain corrosive acids that can make their way through many other materials and release toxic fumes into the air.

Recyclable varieties include car batteries, inverter batteries, heavy machinery batteries, and computer batteries.

If you are willing to learn the technicalities of battery composition and recycling, you can really capitalize on this business!

battery basics infographic image

8) Composting

Composting is the process of redirecting organic material –  food scraps, leaves, branches, and yard trimmings – away from landfills and incinerators and turn it into a valuable product.

Valid composting programs have made it possible for San Francisco to reduce the amount of rubbish it sends to landfills by 80% and composts 255,500 tons of organic material each year. In Vermont, starting this year (2020), organic material needs to be composted and cannot be landfilled.

  • Composting can help create a strong and sustainable agricultural environment.
  • Composting can re-nourish the nutrients in soil, restoring fertility in fields that had been exhausted.
  • The application of compost helps to reduce soil loss by 86%.
  • Composting can replace synthetic chemical fertilizers, which deplete the soil. 
  • The 2018 Farm Bill included a $25 million allotment for the USDA to develop and test municipal composting programs. 

While the machineries needed to compost waste are more expensive than others, the return on investment is very quick. For every 10,000 tons of compost used annually by these businesses, 18 full-time equivalent jobs can be sustained.

There are grant funds available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Natural Resources Conservation Service for on-farm composting sites for equipment and some infrastructure via its EQIP program (Environmental Quality Incentives Program).

compost impact infographic image

9) Recycle Old Tires

The Tire and Rubber Waste Recycling Business is  a very thriving industry: it is a major asset to the economy of the United States and it generates around $959 million annually. 

The costs for running a tire and rubber waste recycling businesses are very high, and the initial investment is sometimes seen as daunting, but all you should aim for to begin is a standard facility in a good and easily accessible location,  your business license, the required recycling machines, equipment and trucks. You are then ready to go conquer your market niche!

lanscape full of discarded tires image

Here's some data about tire and rubber waste recycling:

  • Experts project the Tire and Rubber Waste Recycling industry to grow at a 6.5% annual rate.
  • To this day, there is still no company in this industry that has a dominant market share in the United States.
  • The market for recycled tires and rubber waste is large and can accommodate a huge amount of investors.
  • There are 300 million tires disposed of every year in the United States alone.
  • About 130 million tires are recycled annually as tire-derived fuel, making TDF the single biggest use for old tires.
  • 56 million tires are used by civil engineers  as roadway embankments.

10)Recycle Glass

Glass is 100% recyclable and can be recycled repeatedly without loss in its quality. The use of recycled glass can substitute the use of almost 95% of the materials it takes to create new glass.

Recycling glass is one of the most sought after Recycling businesses, and for a reason: recycled glass containers are always needed because glass manufacturers require high-quality recycled container glass to meet market demands for new glass containers.

It's a virtuous circle that is profitable for every entrepreneur in this niche of the recycling business!

  • The container industry purchases 3.35 million tons of recycled glass every year, which is remelted and repurposed for the production of new containers and fiberglass products.
  •  A ton of natural resources are saved for every ton of glass recycled.
  • There are 44 glass manufacturing plants operating in 21 states. There are 63 glass "benefitting facilities" (aka "glass processing" plants) in 30 states. There is still ample room for competition.
  •  80% of all glass containers used for recycling are remelted in furnaces, and used in the manufacture of new glass containers.
  • Recycling 1,000 tons of glass creates slightly over 8 jobs. Great chances to expand the business!

This is how a Kansas City brewery started its own recycling plant and now takes care of the recycling in all of its urban area:

11) Recycle Wood 

A wood recycling business relies on disassembling wood that has been discarded, such as old furniture, wood packaging, like crates and pallets, and other durable goods partly made of wood.

In 2017, the generation of wood in municipal solid waste was 18 million tons. This equaled 6.7% of total MSW generation that year.

EPA estimated wood pallet recycling at 3 million tons in 2017 for a 16.7% recycling rate. The total amount of wood in municipal social waste that was combusted in 2017 was 2.9 million tons. This was 8.4% of MSW burned with energy recovery.

uses of virgin wood image

One possibility is to shred the wood down to small pieces and create wood pulp.
With the right machinery, you can create entirely new pieces of wood from this

On the other hand, furniture made from recycled wood is actually pretty
trendy right now. People love buying sustainable, environmentally friendly
products, and recycled wood is a very attractive material for these customers.

Recycling wood combines the profits of a tried and tested business with the environmentally friendly label that every new business would want associated with its name.

repurposing recycled wood new furniture image

12) Recycle Textiles and Fabrics

This is definitely a profitable niche: with 85% of used textiles still go to national landfills, there is a huge margin for businesses to enter the game and take their share.

Most used clothes are given to charities, and charities distribute and sell this clothing free of charge or at low prices. But 61% of reusable and recyclable textiles are exported to other countries. Why not recycle them in the U.S. and resell the recycled material? 

Here are a few statistics on textile and fabrics recycling:

multicolor recycled textiles image
  • The average person buys 60% more clothes every year and wears them for about half as much as 20 years ago, creating a massive amount of waste. 
  • The average lifetime of a piece of clothing is approximately 3 years.
  • Nearly 100% of textiles and fabrics are recyclable.
  • The U.S. textile recycling industry removes approximately 2.5 billion pounds of textiles from the waste stream every year, and the industry creates more than 17,000 jobs.
  • In the U.S.  the majority of these businesses are owned by small and/or family businesses, each of which employs 35 to 50 workers. 
  • The textile recycling business in the U.S. has huge potential to become bigger, seeing that 85% of used textiles still go to national landfills.

13) Recycle in Construction and Demolition

Even with all the damage Covid-19 has caused to the economy, 2020 has been a great year for construction so far: more houses, more shops, and more infrastructures have been built in 2020 so far than in 2019. Along with construction, though, we also create a lot of debris and waste.

Luckily,  70% of the construction and demolition (C&D) debris generated in the United States is recycled, and that avoids creating landfills of 440 acres at a waste depth of 50 feet.

Circular economy, the reuse of waste material in constructions, has allowed the U.S. economy to save on its building materials, and it's an ever expanding business that could turn out incredible  profits.

circulare economy in built environment image
  • In just one year, C&D debris accounted for twice the amount of generated municipal solid waste in the U.S.  
  • The National Asphalt Pavement Association estimates that recycling asphalt saves the American taxpayer more than $2.5 billion a year.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 230 million tons of C&D are created each year in the U.S.
  • A 2016 report by the EPA showed that recycling C&D materials created 230,000 jobs.
  • In 2015, green design projects in a commercial setting generated $1.14 billion  in revenue.

More than 34% of waste in 2017 was identified as C&D waste: circular economy is providing a great opportunity for those willing to invest in it. 

Reusing, redistributing and recycling building material is one of the most advantageous niches in the recycling business.

recycle in construction and demolition graph

14) Plant-Based Packaging or Bioplastics

In 2020 compostable plant-based plastics have been recognized as the  most viable solution to create a new circular economy that does not include disposable plastics.

 In August, Molson Coors became the latest of 125 corporations (including L’Oréal, Mars, PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Company and Unilever) to pledge to opt out of harmful plastic packaging and work toward “100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable plastic packaging by 2025.


  • Compostable at a very high percentage.
  • Sustainable and beneficial to the environment.
  • Different plant based materials for different types of food.
  •  Plant biomass is renewable and bioplastics support a rural, agrarian economy.


  • Competition with traditional plastic industries.
  • Diverts arable land from food crops, using resource intensive industrial agriculture.
  • Only 1% of the 330 million tons of plastics produced is plant-based.
  • Industry is right now at start-up level.
recyclable coca cola plant bottle image

This industry is just getting started: if you got in at this stage you could become a pioneer in a proper recycling revolution and profit accordingly.

The reduction of the impact on the environment also will assure your business government grants from municipalities wanting to get away from fossil fuels.

15) Recycle Water

In 2012, a National Academy of Sciences study discovered that U.S. cities could increase their water supply by almost 27% with recycled wastewater.

In fact, much of the tap water we consume has been recycled to some extent, and our
wastewater goes right back into the same reservoirs from which we get our
drinking water.

The Recycling Water Business could be the one for you, especially if you live in a coastal area, where the wastewater would be dumped in the ocean, or in dry areas, where draughts are commonplace, and recycling water could work wonders!

water recycling methods infographic image
  • The reuse of all the wastewater we discharge to the oceans would increase the water available to U.S. cities by  6%.
  • In the U.S., 1 billion gallons per day of treated wastewater is reclaimed to meet non-potable water needs.
  • Everyday, 95% of water that enters the home goes down the drain.
  • Less than three-tenths of 1% of total water use across the U.S. is recycled.
  • Thirty-two billion gallons of wastewater are produced everyday in the U.S., but less than 10% of that is reused.
  • Recycled water costs about $1,100 an acre-foot to produce, half the cost of desalinating ocean water.

Entering the water recycling industry is a relatively cheap endeavor, and the returns are bound to increase over the years.

In 2017, the water recycling industry was valued more than $13 million, and  that number is expected to rise to more than $32 million by the end of 2024.

Now is the right time to start-up a business in this niche.

Final Thoughts

Let’s be clear – the recycling business has always been profitable. You’re taking raw, waste materials that are incredibly cheap and easy to source, and turning them into highly profitable, valuable products.

The core principles of this business plan alone should be convincing enough.

Starting a business in the recycling industry, though, is also a very expensive enterprise, and you should jump in only after having considered costs, return on investments and upkeep expenses. You will also need to hire workers and recycling experts to point you in the right direction.

But if you decide to take the plunge and create a recycling business, you will be entering a new territory, with limited competition and a very high possibility of obtaining municipal and government grants, since the U.S. government has begun to invest on renewables very heavily in the past years.

So, if you’re serious about the recycling industry and you have the initial funds to back your business up, any of these business ideas could be massively profitable. There are many success stories in the youtube videos embedded in this post, and you could be the next one.

All you need to do now is pick a business plan and get started.

recycling touch screen image

My Preferred Business for 2021

If you do start your own recycling business, it is obvious that, in order to expand, you will need to attract lucrative leads that you can turn into clients.

Once you create the website for your company, you will want to rank it, so that possible clients find you on the first page of Google and get in touch with you instead of the competitor.

And that's where my preferred business model for 2021 steps in: local lead generation.

I run a $50K per month lead generation business and all of my leads are generated through free traffic or SEO.

So it's pretty much passive income, I don’t have to worry about the performance of any ads or anything.

The website I create ranks on the first page of Google, in the so-called map pack, and the leads just start pouring in.

All I need to do is to find a business who can use my leads, and set a monthly retainer for a fraction of what they make:

It's a win win situation.

So, you see, it's passive income, once I have ranked the site through simple free steps, I don’t have to worry about the performance of the site or anything.

Once my site ranks it generally keeps its rank with very little to no maintenance.

Don’t get me wrong you can still make a living creating a recycling business, and local lead generation could be the perfect complement to making always sure your business is spotted easily by your leads.

Once you get your business to rank in the map-pack of Google, like my Tree Service website above, the leads start pouring in, and there is never shortage of clients.

The Tree Service guys have been paying me every month, without a fail, for years, and the maintenance on the site has been close to zero.

This is why I still recommend people look into doing lead generation with free traffic

checks from tree service company image


Creating a recycling company from scratch is a great idea, but the upfront costs may be many, and not all of us can afford them.

On the other hand, if you know how to generate leads with free traffic, you can go into any niche, even the local recycling biz and create an incredible level of results for clients, while helping the environment.

That’s how 90% of my multiple 6 figure income is generated. And I should add that it's passive income: see free traffic never stops.

 In 2020, even during Covid-19, I continue to build more lead gen sites and I write at least 1 blog post a day for this site, because I’ve come to realize that these are the high-income producing activities because it directly increases my free traffic every month.

Click here if you want to know more about my Lead Gen method.

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Ippei Kanehara
Founder/CEO Ippei Leads

$52K per month providing lead generation services to small businesses is for digital hustlers, industry leaders and online business owners.

His #1 online business recommendation in 2021, is to build your own 6-figure lead gen biz. You can learn more here.
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  1. Thank you so much for the detailed information about the real money making prospects in recycling. Waste is gold! People don’t realize the opportunities that exist in this sector. We need more of this info out there to help people get through these difficult transition times.

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