How To Start Your Own Paper Recycling Business
One of the easies—and in fact one of the oldest ways of making
extra money–is by collecting old newspapers and selling them to
a recycling plant in your locale.
Believe it or not, you can develop a very respectable income
collecting and selling paper to the recycling centers. It
certainly does not take any education, specialized training or
experience; it’s as simple as saving your old newspapers and
turning them in to a central collection depot.
Some “paper recyclers” are making more than $100,000 a year in
this business. In other people doing it, then there’s no reason
YOU can’t do it! About the only equipment you’ll need is a pickup
truck or a trailer that can be pulled along behind your personal
car. We even found one “old timer” who was collecting paper in
this area with a pushcart! While interviewing him, we found that
he was deliberately choosing not to expand, although he very
definitely could have.
The prices being paid for paper these days by the recycling
centers will astound you (remember that the quotations we give
here may escalated sharply since our research). For instances,
old newspapers are commanding $50 per ton and more; used
cardboard, $75 a ton; and high grade office paper as mush as
$2120 per ton. This kind of money you onto Easy Street in a
hurry. Everything, of course, depends on how well organized you
are, and how hard you work at building your business.
Make no mistake about it, we live in a paper world. Americans use
200 million tons of paper a year–for everything from daily
newspapers to books and cardboard boxes. After a quick use, we
throw away at least 100 million tons of paper, almost all of
which could be recycled. This means that there’s about 8 billion
dollars worth of paper out there that can be collected and
recycled each year. So if you are looking to start a business
with real profit potential, what are you waiting for?
Just look around your own home. In the garage or basement, for
instance. What do you do with the old newspapers after you’ve
read them? How about all the mail you get each week? Chances are
this waste paper just piles up in a corner of the garage or
basement until one of the kids asks if he can haul it off for the
school or cub scout paper drive. Or maybe your wife and kids get
ambitious some weekend, clean out the garage and haul it off to
the collection truck at one of the local shopping centers. (We
It’s true that selling stacks of newspapers you’ve accumulated
during the past couple of months or so won’t make you rich. In
fact, it’s doubtful your own accumulation of paper will add up to
a ton a year, and that certainly won’t amount to much in extra
income. But think about the tonage involved in the stacks of old
newspapers you can collect from your relatives, friends and
neighbors. You could easily collect 100-pound sack of old
newspapers from the people in your neighbor each week—and
that’s your immediate neighborhood.
And then think about the total extra income you would have when
you have hauled all this paper down to the recycling depot. If
you’re serious, and get yourself properly prepared, you can
easily make $300 or more every weekend, and it won’t involve all
your time. Some planning and effort on your part are the prime
Start by clearing a space in your garage for storage. One side of
a two-car garage, or any 8 by 12 foot space should be sufficient.
If you have a garden shed that’s dry, that would work well also.
WE’ve even seen some paper collectors even rent space in a
neighborhood mini-warehouse. We’ve even seen some paper
collectors store their paper on pallets in their backyards, using
tarpaulins over it to keep dry. The important thing is to have a
space available to store your collected paper until you’re ready
to haul it to the recycling depot.
Being a firm believer in doing as little as possible of the
physical work involved in any business. I recommend you hire
people to do a lot of this for you. BY that I mean you should
contact all the cub scouts, girl scouts, and civic organizations
in your area; tell them you’ll pay them money for the paper they
collect and turn in to you. At the same time, contact the
counselors at the schools and colleges in your area and tell them
you’ll pay them for all the paper they collect. The idea is to
get everyone in your are collecting paper for you, eliminating
the need to do the actual collecting your self.
How much of the gross profit you allow or pay these people who do
the actual collection is up to you. The average rate is $25 to
$30 per ton when you are getting $50 per ton.
In the beginning, you may have to make a sign and tape it to the
side of your pickup or car, and “pound the payment” yourself, but
you would expect to do this in starting any business. Basically,
there’s nothing to this excepting that it takes time you could be
using to do other things; but is there anything more important
than getting your new business “off the ground?
A simple sign such as JOE’S PAPER RECYCLING SWERVICE–Phone
123-4567, is about all that’s necessary. You could have this made
up on a magnetic mat at most quick print shops. Have a college
art student make one up for you on butcher paper, or have a
professions sign painter produce one for you on a heavy card
With this sign on the side of your pickup, car, or trailer,
simply drive through the residential neighborhoods of your area.
Park in the middle of the block, get out and start knocking on
doors, asking the residents if they have old newspapers or
cardboard boxes they’d like for you to haul away for them.
Generally, you’ll get an armload of old newspapers at every
house. Simply carry them to your pickup or trailer, then go on to
the next house.
If you’ll set up a definite route to follow, certain streets on
certain days about once every two weeks, you’ll find the
homeowners will have stacks of paper waiting for you. Regardless
of whether the person answering the door gives you a stack of
paper,always leave a business card at each home.
Some paper recyclers offer to pay the people saving newspapers
for them, and having it ready for them when they make their
collection rounds. Generally, this isn’t necessary. If you’ll
develop regular collection days for each street or neighborhood,
you’ll find the people putting papers out for you just as they
set out their garage for collection.
There are even some paper recyclers who charge the people to haul
their paper away. This isn’t advisable, because once you start
hauling rubbish, you’ll end up doing clean-up work, and hauling
more to the dump than you do to the recycling depot.
Once you have your collection routes organized, you can hire
students to make your collection rounds after school, and haul
the paper to your storage center. You can set up crews of
three–one to drive the truck or car while the others knock on
doors on each side of the street.
Depending on how much paper each route gives you every two weeks,
you could have a crew working several routes each day for minimum
wage, probably a couple of tons of paper for every three hours of
Again, by hiring other people to do the actual collection work
for you, you’ll only free yourself for other work, but you’ll be
making more money: Three people can do MORE in LESS TIME than ONE
The next thing is to set up an area-wide collection depot. This
could be a pre-fab building on a vacant lot, a vacant car lot, or
a closed service station.
In setting up an area-wide (or neighborhood) collection depot,
you will need space–some sort of shed to store or stack papers
in until you load them up and haul them to the recycling center
where you sell them. You’ll need a scale to weigh them, and some
sort of office or desk space to manage your cash and books.
You’ll need space enough for your customers to drive beside the
scale and unload their papers, and at the same time an
arrangement whereby you can pay them immediately. A vacant
service station would be ideal. Your customers can pull in just
as if they were going to purchase gasoline; you could have your
scale set between the driveways where the gas pumps are usually
located, and store your accumulating loads in the service area of
In most cities or counties, you’ll need a business license or
permit. For more details, see our report, BASIC STEPS TO STARTING
YOUR OWN BUSINESS.
You’ll need a couple of signs, one on each side of the driveway.
These will announce the fact that your but old newspapers. They
need not be anything fancy, just simple attention-getting
announcements that you’re open for business and paying for paper.
Generally, the going rate for newspapers dropped off at a central
collection depot is 2 cents per pound, and the papers need not be
bundled. This will give the sellers $40 a ton for dropping them
off, and at $50 a ton, that will work out to $10 per ton profit
for you. (again, these rates are rising, so be sure you are
absolutely current by checking out the going price in your area.)
In addition to old newspapers, you should organize your time and
schedule to call upon all the businesses, stores and warehouse in
your area. Talk to the business owners or store managers and ask
them if you can haul away their old cardboard boxes.
If there’s competition in your area, you might end up having to
pay for these boxes, provided they’re clean. The thing to do is
to call everybody who uses paper products or cardboard boxes.
Remember, the more people you have giving you paper, the more
money you are going to make. Many already established recycling
services do not bother with smaller stores and warehouses, but
these add up quickly if you are diligent in finding a number of
Check close by in your surrounding area, and find out if the
businesses are satisfied with their present pick-up system. Ask
first if you can “have” their old boxes; many of the smaller
stores will give them to you because it decreases the load for
their rubbish service to haul away. Where necessary, offer to pay
2 cents per pound if they’ll save them for you.
As mentioned before, the important thing is to get everyone
providing paper for you–people collect and have ready for you to
pick up when you drop by on your designated collection day.
Besides that, you start making really big money when you can park
your truck in one place and fill it up from a group of closely
located stores or businesses. With this in mind, you could
conceivably drive trough four blocks, making one stop in the
middle of each block, and have a ton or more paper or cardboard
boxes every fourth block.
One other thing you’ll need to efficiently handle cardboard boxes
is a sharp knife with which to slit the sides of the boxes and
flatten them as you load them onto your truck or trailer. A
simple “handyman’s” utility knife costing about $5 will handle
this chore for you with ease. When you buy one, though, be sure
to buy extra supply blades as well, because cutting through
cardboard will dull your knife very quickly.
Another paper products source: The offices in your area,
particularly those with computers. The age of computers has
ushered in more reports for offices then ever before, adding
reams of paper to the average office trash basket. When you visit
these offices, take along a couple of “Save-a-Tree” boxes and ask
the office people to discard all their waste paper into these
boxes for you—letters, envelopes, outdated reports and files.
You can usually get the “Save-a-Tree” boxes at your local
recycling depot, and when full, we’re talking about 35 to 45
pounds of paper. Most offices will fill one of these boxes in a
week or two, depending, of course, upon their volume of
paperwork. And while you’re on this kind of “foraging” trip,
don’t forget to check in all the print shops. They waste and
throw away almost as much paper as they sell.
It will pay you to contract for a quarter page ad, or the largest
ad available that you can afford, in the yellow pages of your
area telephone and business directories. Whether or not you
advertise the prices you pay in the ad is entirely up to you, but
generally it’s not a good idea to do so, because you would be
stuck with those rates over the year. You might word your ad to
explain that you pay one rate per pound when the paper is brought
to you, and other rate when you pick it up and haul it away.
At the same time, you should run a regular classified ad, perhaps
even one with words in the Contract Jobs section of your daily
paper. Your best advertising days will be Thursday through
Saturday. These are the days when people are specifically
thinking about cleaning up around the house or offices. Also,
these are the days when people think about what they can do to
earn extra money.
This is the kind of business that “snowballs” with visibility and
word-of-the-mouth advertising. It will definitely benefit you,
then, to join the various civic and service clubs in your area,
attend their luncheons and mingle with the business leaders in
your area. Volunteer to assist in some fund-raising events, and
whenever possible, become a quest speaker and tell about your
It isn’t hard to stand up before a group of people and talk about
your business, particularly if you know what you’re talking about
and believe in what your saying. It does take at least an outline
of a script, perhaps a few notes, a rehearsal and the essential
ingredient of enthusiasm.
Make your talk interesting and informative. Do some research and
present statistics on how much paper the people of this country
use each year. Explain the limited supply of timber, and the need
to recycle as much as possible. Detail how these facts and
figures opened your eyes, and caused you to do something about
it–to open your own recycling center. And then, lead you talk
into explaining how the recycling business is an avenue for
everyone to benefit; the ideal fund-raising endeavor, a cleaner
environment; and a chance to preserve some forest land.
Getting free publicity for a recycling center can be easy. In
addition to serving as guest speaker before civic and service
groups in your area, you may find radio and television stations
and newspapers, and even weekly shoppers guides anxious to give
you time or space.
By all means, try to get a story into these people detailing your
grand opening, follow-up with appearances on talk shows, and
press releases about the different organizations raising money by
collecting newspapers and turning them in to you. Set up a
contest among the different organizations, with prizes for the
teams or organizations collecting the most paper. Hold special
“Seniors Days” when you pay extra for all paper turned in by
persons of a certain age. Keep an eye out for angles such as the
largest amounts turned in, and stories about your regular
collectors who keep turning in paper regular until they attain
Emphasize you publicity contacts that recycling is a kind of
community service that benefits all citizens. You’re cleaning the
environment, conserving timber, and putting money into the
pockets of all who participate. Think about it; submit press
releases to the media; calling them and inviting them to cover
human stories emanating form your business!
This business takes organization, some energy on your part, and
at least in the beginning, your time. But if you put forth the
effort as we have outlined, there’s no reason you shouldn’t
easily realize a very comfortable income with your own RECYCLING
BUSINESS. It takes effort on your part, but if you’re looking for
a lucrative business, you have here a plan to act on!