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  • Writer's pictureDejah Dean

Explainer: Students cash in empty bottles for quick money

Updated: Aug 27, 2023

By Dejah Dean, Clarion Staff Reporter

Want to make an easy $100? All you need is about 1000 bottles. Just collect them and turn them in for cash at a nearby recycling center.

What You Get

You can earn five to ten cents per bottle. What about $20? You'd need a little over 300 bottles. Plastic recycling can be very profitable. Recycling may not be a full-time job, but it can earn you some extra “fun” money. Used cans can earn you about $5 a pound. That $5 a week could add up to an extra $260 a year.

What The Symbol Means

There’s a symbol that says CA CASH REFUND or CA CRV on some bottles. CRV stands for California Refund Value. The symbol means that the bottle can be recycled for cash. You can get as little as 5¢ for most containers that are less than 24 ounces and 10 cents for each container 24 ounces or greater. Currently, state certified recycling centers pay a minimum of $1.65 CRV for aluminum cans, $1.33 CRV for clear PET plastic bottles and $0.58 CRV for High-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic bottles. Glass is worth much less than aluminum and plastic at $0.10 CRV. Milk, wine and distilled spirit containers are not included in the CRV program. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET plastic) is BPA free, but is associated with many of the same health risks. BPA, or bisphenol A, is a chemical that is in hard plastics, like drinking water bottles and other household items.

What Centers Offer

Visit different recycling centers and ask what they pay for for certain bottles. Some centers add up per pound, and others use the symbols on the bottles to determine your profit. Many recycling centers offer credit or cash for recyclable materials such as ink cartridges, cardboard, electronic waste, scrap metal as well.

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