Special Report

What Your State Will Pay You to Recycle

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Did you know that recycling 15 glass bottles saves enough energy to power an air conditioner for an hour or a laptop for more than a day?

These are just a few of the reasons why recycling is a good thing. More long-term benefits include creating jobs, reducing water and air pollution, conserving energy, and preserving natural resources.

However, not enough people are engaged in converting waste into reusable material. Each household spends just two minutes a day, on average, recycling, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In 2015, the latest year for which EPA data is available, about 262 million tons of garbage were generated in the United States, approximately 91 million tons of which were recycled and composted. This is equivalent to a 34.7% recycling and composting rate.

States have recognized the importance of recycling and have been working to promote it for years. A noticeable trend may be making their job difficult — we are producing more waste per person.

To determine what each state will pay its residents for recycling, 24/7 Wall St. looked at beverage container deposit laws in all 10 states that have such statutes and reviewed recycling programs — both public and private — in each state.

Click here to see what each state pays its residents to recycle.

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The Land Division has primary jurisdiction over processing solid and hazardous waste in the state. The Alabama Environmental Council, a statewide, non-profit organization, helps locals with harder-to-recycle items, such as aluminum, appliances, batteries, glass, electronics, and engines, for a small fee to cover the cost of transportation.


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Alaska has at least 12 recycling programs around the state with a dozen recycling partners. Some include places where you can recycle computers, phones, batteries and bulbs, while others provide trailers to meet any hauling and collection needs. Local governments do not promote one over the other. Prices, operating hours, and acceptable items may vary and can change.

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The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) is working with counties and cities, environmental groups, and private and non-profit companies to expand the scope of recycling across the state. There are at least 48 recycling programs listed on the ADEQ website.

The city of Tempe, for example, has started a SMART program — Save Money and Recycle Tempe. Some call it the “pay-as-you-throw” program. You can save money by recycling more — the bigger the recycling container, the smaller the monthly fee.

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Arkansas residents are eligible for a 30% state income tax credit for buying equipment that is used only for collecting, separating, processing, modifying, converting, or treating solid waste. Taxpayers also get the same credit for manufacturing products made of 50% recovered material, if at least 10% of that is post-consumer waste. The cost of installation is also tax deductible.


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California is one of just 11 states with container deposit laws, which allow residents to redeem bottles for money. Californians get a 5¢ refund for containers under 24 oz. or under and 10¢ for any above or equal to 24oz. The statute covers containers for beer, malt, wine and distilled spirit coolers, as well as all non-alcoholic beverages, except milk and juices over 16 oz. The containers have to be made of aluminum, glass, plastic, or bi-metal. Refillables are exempt.

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Colorado has a bad reputation when it comes to recycling. In 2017, it recycled only 12% of its waste, compared to the national average of 34%.

However, recycling grants and rebates have been made available to lower the cost of recycling for Coloradans. Grants are disbursed for small recycling projects in need of equipment, supplies or outreach materials.


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Any size container will get you a 5¢ refund in Connecticut. The beverages covered under the law are beer, malt, soft drinks, and bottled water. Containers can be sealed glass, metal or plastic bottles, cans, jars or cartons. Bottles over three liters containing non-carbonated drinks and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) containers are excluded.

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Due to a law change in 2010, beverage containers are no longer refundable in Delaware. But the state has adapted universal recycling to make it easy for residents. All recyclable materials can be thrown out in one container – no sorting required. The only exceptions are batteries, motor oil and oil filters. You don’t get any money back for recycling, but you can donate furniture, small appliances, toys and clothes to charity, which can be purchased for reuse.

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The Sunshine State has created a trust fund, at least 40% of which should be used for recycling and waste reduction. The money is distributed evenly among small counties with populations of fewer than 100,000 people.


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About 40% of what Georgians throw out as regular garbage can actually be recycled. A statewide campaign provides recycling trailers to be used by local governments at special events or to be rented out for recycling use. Discounts on recycling bins are available for businesses that pledge to increase recycling at the office. A scholarship for people interested in careers in the recycling field has also been created.

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Hawaii will pay a 5¢ refund for any beer, malt, mixed spirit or wine containers, as well as those for non-alcoholic drinks, except dairy. The containers can’t be bigger than 68 ounces, and must be made of aluminum, bi-metal, plastic, or glass.


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Recycling in Idaho is an optional service that local governments or private companies provide at their discretion. The state has no waste diversion programs. Different counties have created their own programs to promote recycling. Teton County, for example, offers a corrugated cardboard pick-up service for businesses and homeowner associations, which reduces the amount of waste that goes into garbage dumpsters, resulting in fewer garbage pick-ups.

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Illinois has two major recycling programs: I-Cycle and E-Cycle. The goal of the former is to find and sell all recyclable material from state agencies and to encourage the manufacturing of products from recovered materials; the latter aims to properly recycle electronic equipment, such as computers, monitors, wires, printers, phones, etc.

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Indiana won’t pay you for every bottle you recycle, but you can still get money through the state’s Recycling Market Development Program. People working on projects with a focus on reuse, reduction, and methods to increase recyclable material collection can get grants of between $1,000 and $500,000.


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The Hawkeye State will pay 5¢ for containers of beer, wine coolers, wine, liquor, carbonated soft drinks, and mineral water. It will take any sealed bottle, can, jar, or carton composed of glass, metal or plastic.

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While Kansas doesn’t have a specific program for giving back money in exchange for recyclable items or even a recycling rate goal, it does have a law requiring counties to perform annual reviews of their recycling efforts and to complete five-year plan updates. There has been a significant increase in recycling in parts of the state since 2011.


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The Energy and Environment Cabinet’s Division of Waste Management sponsors projects to expand recycling, reduce the amount of solid waste going to landfills and improve the management of household hazardous waste. This year it is financing about 80 grants worth about $5 million.

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Tax credits are available for people who buy qualified new recycling manufacturing or processing equipment. Corporations may also be eligible for a tax credit of 14.4% when purchasing recycling equipment.

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Maine is a little more generous with its refunds. People who recycle wine or liquor containers get 15¢; all others are worth 5¢. Drinks covered under the law include everything except dairy products and unprocessed cider. The containers have to be sealed, no more than four liters, and composed of glass, metal or plastic.


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In 2016, Maryland residents and businesses recycled 42.9% of the municipal solid waste generated. The state is working to encourage more recycling by educating the public about its benefits and by seeking new ways, such as pay-as-you-throw programs, to make it more popular.

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The Baked Bean State accepts beer, malt, soft drinks, and mineral water containers that have to be either a sealable bottle, can, jar, or carton. Each is worth 5¢. Also, they have to made of glass, metal, plastic or a combination of the three. Biodegradables — containers that can decay naturally — are excluded.


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Michigan pays 10¢ for beer containers, wine coolers, canned cocktails, soft drinks, and mineral water bottles. They have to be airtight, under one gallon, and made of metal, glass, paper, or plastic.

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Minnesota has been upgrading its recycling program, introducing commercial composting and installing new collection stations. A statewide recycling refund program has been recommended.

It proposed a deposit of 10¢ for every beverage container of up to one gallon. Containers could be for beer, malt, wine, distilled spirits, carbonated and non-carbonated soft drinks, flavored and unflavored bottled water, fruit juice, milk, and tea and coffee drinks, regardless of dairy-derived content.

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Mississippi throws out enough garbage a year to cover 600 football fields, and 40% to 60% of it is recyclable. The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) was accepting grant proposals from possible new cooperative recycling systems or the expansion of existing ones. A total of about $1 million was available.


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State law encourages government agencies to buy and use products made from recycled materials when the product’s price is within 10% of the price of the same type of product made from non-recycled materials. Particular emphasis is put on recycled oil, retread tires, compost, and recycled paper.

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According to a report by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality for 2016, the latest year for which data is available, the state recycled 17.1% of the waste at its landfills, a rate that has been decreasing every year since 2014.

This may be due to the fact that the volume of garbage at landfills has increased. Montanans generate on average an estimated 8.8 pounds of solid waste per person per day, recycling just 1.9 pounds of that amount.


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Nebraska offers grants to both public and private entities to help waste management projects, including recycling systems and market development of recyclable materials. A municipality or a country can apply for a partial landfill refund through another program if they have a policy requiring a preference for buying products made from recycled materials.

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Nevada is working to promote recycling through various methods, including art contests. Different grants totaling $50,000 are made available every year by private and government organizations with the purpose of expanding recycling and waste reduction efforts.

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New Hampshire

Certain cities, including Manchester, have a single stream curbside program: All recyclable items can be put together in one cart. There are two state non-profit recycling organizations that work to resolve recycling challenges, create cooperative marketing programs, and create environmental awareness.


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New Jersey

Recycling is mandatory in New Jersey. The specific items that must be recycled are determined by each county. At a minimum, people and small businesses with fewer than 50 full-time employees can recycle electronics for free at collection sites. Many other states charge fees ranging from $10 to $60 for this service. Aluminum cans, glass containers, corrugated cardboard, newsprint, and office paper are mandated to be recycled by all counties.

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New Mexico

Recycling programs in New Mexico vary from community to community. In some places you have to call 311 for large item pickup for appliances like refrigerators, and in others small electronics can be placed in curbside bins (which is unusual). Some places have adapted single-stream recycling, while others will only accept glass containers at drop-off locations.


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New York

The Empire State pays 5¢ per container. Beverages covered under the statute include beer, malt, wine, carbonated soft drinks, soda water, and water that does not contain sugar. The containers have to be a sealed bottle, can, or jar, less than one gallon, and composed of glass, metal, aluminum, steel or plastic.

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North Carolina

Grants supporting recycling initiatives and programs are available for local governments and businesses. The money is meant to fund sustainable investments in equipment and buildings to help divert more material from disposal to economic use. In 2016, the state awarded more than $2.1 million in grants, generating approximately 66 jobs.

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North Dakota

The North Dakota Solid Waste and Recycling Association has an awards program that recognizes companies, people and organizations for their efforts in promoting and practicing recycling. The Association also offer a scholarship to people who want to further their education in recycling and waste management.


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Ohio awards grants every year to communities, governments or businesses who work to implement various recycling programs including scrap tire recycling projects. Locals are encouraged to buy recycled-content products.

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Individuals can make money by recycling in Oklahoma in only one way — by selling scrap metal and aluminum cans. Attempts to introduce a “Bottle Bill,” under which people will be refunded for recycling containers, have not been successful.

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Oregon accepts any sealed bottle, can, or jar made of glass, metal or plastic that has contained beer, malt, carbonated soft drinks, or water. The statute also stipulates that covers all beverages except wine, distilled liquor, dairy milk, plant-based milk, infant formula, and meal replacement beverages. The state pays 10¢ per container and 2¢ for standard refillable.


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Municipalities with a population of over 10,000 and those with a population density greater than 300 per square mile are required by law to recycle. An average person in Philadelphia, for example, generates one ton of waste per year.

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Rhode Island

Many businesses in Rhode Island do not recycle for several reasons, including added costs. The state’s Department of Environment Management offers help upon request.

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South Carolina

All 46 counties in South Carolina have a residential recycling program. The state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control’s recycling goal is 35% for all counties; its waste reduction goal is 3.5 pounds per person per day. Some cities have approved single-stream recycling to help reach these goals.


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South Dakota

Grants and low-interest loans are offered by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for projects focusing on improving recycling capabilities throughout the state. These projects should address reuse, waste volume reduction, energy production, or disposal in landfill.

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Last year, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation accepted applications for recycling and waste reduction grants worth $4.5 million. The goal is to involve the public to reduce its dependence on landfills. Another program offers money to rural communities with populations of 50,000 or fewer.


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Texas doesn’t offer money directly back to its residents, but it does have a Resource Exchange Network for Eliminating Waste (RENEW). This is a free materials-exchange network that enables industries, businesses, and governmental units to sell surplus materials, by-products, and wastes to people who can reuse them. As a result, more than 1 billion pounds of waste has been recycled since 1989.

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Some cities in Utah have a mandatory recycling program. It is paid for by a garbage service fee in the utility bill. People who need extra pick-ups have to pay an additional amount. Rules about what you can recycle have changed.

Recyclables are usually sent to China for processing, but China no longer wants certain items. The number on the bottom of a container indicates the material used in its production: numbers 1 through 7 on plastic containers are acceptable for recycling.

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Vermont is another generous state, paying 15¢ for containers with alcohol and 5¢ for all others. The drinks covered under the law are beer, malt, mixed wine, liquor, and carbonated soft drinks. The state will take any bottle, can, jar, or carton made of glass, metal, paper, plastic, or a combination of these. Biodegradables are excluded.


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Each county, city, town or regional authority is required to implement recycling programs in order to meet a two-tier recycling goal of 15% or 25% of its municipal solid waste generation. A state income tax credit, equal to 20% of original cost, is available to businesses and people who buy machinery and equipment for processing recyclable materials. A tax credit is also available to taxpayers who run a business that accepts waste motor oil from the public.

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You may not get any money back, but at least recycling won’t cost you extra in Washington. Fees for the collection of recyclable materials are not subject to the state’s solid waste collection tax. The consumer tax, which is also called the refuse tax, is a tax on the fees for the collection, transfer, storage, or disposal of garbage.


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West Virginia

The Make It Shine program was established to promote education about recycling. The state’s Department of Environmental Protection sponsors the Environmental Teacher of the Year Award. Each winner gets a $500 personal award; another $1,000 is awarded to the teacher’s school to promote STEM programs.

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Wisconsin residents can get $35 for recycling old appliances, such as fridges and freezers. You can dispose of them for free — they will be picked up — and earn an award. Every year the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources gives out an award for outstanding recycling efforts and innovation to communities and organizations.

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Wyoming residents don’t get money back for recycling, and in some places they even have to pay for it. In the city of Gillette, for example, curbside recycling costs $6 a month.

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