The world currently generates over 2 billion tonnes of waste every year. By 2050, this figure is expected to rise to nearly 3.5 billion. Along with reducing overall consumption levels, one of the best ways of reducing waste is to recycle as much as possible.
Recycling has been practised by humans in one form or another throughout most of our history. Archaeological studies have revealed remelted metals that suggest materials were reused for different purposes, and Plato even wrote about the importance of repurposing waste as far back as the fourth century BC.
Modern recycling ideas – such as reusing glass bottles and plastic, etc. – started around 1970, though bottle deposit systems date back to the early 19th century. By the 1980s, bottle banks were prevalent in the UK, and in 2003 the Household Waste Recycling Act was passed. The act stated that, by 2010, every local authority in England must provide households with a separate collection of two types of recyclable materials.
Recycling is now commonplace and fast becoming a thriving industry, and there is even a UK recycling week (17th – 23rd October). So, with this in mind, join us as we take you through the top 12 recycling business ideas.
How can you turn waste recycling into a business?
There are myriad ways that recycling can become a profitable business using both traditional techniques and innovative modern technology to get the most out of waste. While some of these techniques are more accessible than others, for any recycling business to succeed, you will need to find a niche and know exactly who your market is and how you can help them.
People often think of recycling as something that is done by the local authorities, but there are already thousands of private recycling companies in the UK that offer unique or targeted services to individuals, businesses, and organisations.
So let’s jump in and look at our first recycling business idea: computer refurbishment.
A computer refurbishment business takes in old computers and either restores them to working conditions for resale or combines the old parts with other old computer parts to make recycled computers.
Computer refurbishment is a great way to reuse old materials, though it does require an advanced skill set. You will need to be well-trained in data recovery, hardware repairs, and troubleshooting.
But if you have a knack for all things electronic and digital, then a computer refurbishment business could be perfect for you!
There are nearly 400 million tonnes of plastic waste generated each year, and only around 10% of it is recycled. This is a depressing statistic for even the feeblest of eco-warriors, but it also presents clear opportunities for any green entrepreneurs who are keen to do their bit to tackle the problem of plastic waste.
A plastic recycling business could come in many forms, but the best approach – whilst you get started – is to find a niche product that you can produce from old plastics.
Recycling paper is one of the most widely used and effective recycling processes. For example, in the US, almost two-thirds of paper products are recycled.
Paper recycling is a relatively simple process that requires mixing the paper with water and certain chemicals before heating it to create a new pulp. The pulp is then strained and pressed into recycled paper.
Because paper recycling is not overly complicated and paper is so widely recycled, a paper recycling business could be the perfect opportunity for anyone looking to start a recycling company.
Electronic waste recycling
Electronic waste, sometimes known as “e-waste,” is any waste generated by electronic items. This may include waste from a phone, a computer, a television, a watch, a calculator, etc.
Electronic waste is important to recycle as the contents of the materials can be very damaging to the planet and difficult to biodegrade.
Electronic waste recycling can be very profitable as the various parts of the electronics can be used for various purposes. However, stripping the electronics into their components can be quite labour intensive, so it requires a well-organised operation.
Scrap metal recycling
Scrap metal recycling, sometimes known as “scrap,” is the most profitable of all the recycling businesses.
Scrap metals can either be melted down and sold back to various industries for further processing, or you can repurpose the recycled metal yourself.
Either way, a scrap metal recycling business will normally require a plant or a yard in which you can process the metals.
There are different categories of glass that are used for different purposes. So the first stage of glass recycling is to order the glass into different groups before melting it down.
Some glass is infinitely recyclable, which means it can be reused for the same purpose indefinitely and results in no waste. Other glass can be recycled into materials such as concrete, astroturf, or fiberglass insulation.
Glass is one of the most adaptable materials and is widely recycled, which makes a glass recycling business a great idea for anyone looking to start their own recycling operation.
Furniture and wood recycling
With the right pair of hands, furniture and wood recycling can be quick, simple, and very profitable.
Once you have the relevant materials, you begin by simply dissembling the various pieces and then reconstructing the wood into new items. It certainly requires a good degree of craftsmanship, but if you know what you are doing, wood recycling can be a very rewarding endeavour.
Property renovation and clearing
When a house is vacated, the owners often hire professional property clearance services to empty the property. Many of the items within the property that were going to be dumped can be reused or repurposed.
Properties that are being renovated will also have recyclable materials such as flooring, bathroom features, doors, window frames, etc., all of which can be reused for various purposes.
There is never a shortage of properties that need clearing or renovating, so a recycling business based around property clearance and renovation could be a winner!
Food waste recycling
Food is the single biggest contributor to waste. In the UK alone, we throw out nearly 10 million tonnes of food each year, with around 70% of this food still being fit for human consumption.
Food waste can be used for compost, animal feed, or biofuel. But you could also get creative with your food waste recycling business and start an app service such as Too Good To Go, which collects food from restaurant kitchens that is about to be dumped and resell it for discounted prices to customers.
Water recycling, or water reclamation, is the process of treating wasted water to make it reusable for a number of purposes, including farming, fishing, and drink manufacturing.
Water recycling is a heavily regulated industry, so you will need to apply for a license to start your own business.
Tires are usually made from a combination of rubber, carbon compound mix, and nylon. When tires are thrown away, they are often burnt or dumped. Burning them creates enormous amounts of air pollution, while dumping them leaves them to biodegrade, which takes a very long time.
The best solution of what to do with old tires is to recycle them. Tires can either be melted down and remoulded into new tires or different products, or the material can be resold to other industries.
Batteries are one of the worst things you can dump as they are filled with chemicals that are poisonous to the natural world.
Most types of batteries can be recycled and turned into new batteries. Given the vast number of electrical items we have at our disposal now, a battery recycling business will never likely be short of battery stock.
How to make your recycling business thrive
Coming up with an idea for a recycling business is only the first step of many that are required to ensure your business finds success.
You should start by finding a gap in the market for recycled goods. Is there something in your local area that is wasted at particularly high levels? Or maybe you have a unique skill or some niche equipment that could get your recycling business started? Whatever it may be, start with what you know and build from there.
Once you have a solid idea of what it is you can offer, approach some local businesses to see if they would be interested in partnering with you. Companies are increasingly looking to improve their eco-friendliness so, with the right offer, you should find some interest.
You can also approach residents if you are looking for free waste materials that you can reuse. People are never short of things they want to throw away, so put some leaflets through doors and make sure the locals are familiar with your work and the types of materials you are looking for.
You should also aim to give your recycling business a digital presence. Consider investing in a website designer or even an app developer. Many recycling businesses operate on apps now, and while you might not start with an app, it is a good direction to move towards.
There has never been a better time to start a recycling business, and the world is in desperate need of less unnecessary waste. More and more people and businesses are realising the importance of recycling, and the demand for it is there if you can find your niche.
So, if you are considering opening a recycling business, try some of our profitable recycling business ideas, or you can use them as a grounding to develop your own.