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Flog your rubbish for cash

Make money from old loo roll tubes, jars, corks & more

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Sarah M | Edited by Steve N

Updated 10 Apr 2017

Toilet rolls

Are you sitting on a small fortune in household waste? Stop throwing out your old loo roll tubes, jam jars and wine corks – you might be flushing cash down the toilet...

Surprisingly, there are people out there willing to PAY for what you normally chuck away – a jam jar can fetch up to £1.35, a loo roll tube 35p. That's because your recycling or rubbish bin's full of items in hot demand among those doing arts and crafts. You may have to sell a few in one go – though we've seen individual perfume bottles sell for as much as £8.

This is the first incarnation of this guide. Please give us feedback, suggest improvements and share your tips in the Flog Your Rubbish For Cash forum thread.

What can I sell?

jam jars

A surprising number of common household waste items are being sold online. The most valuable individual items we've seen are empty perfume bottles, with some selling for as much as £8 each, though about a third of that is more typical.

Jam jars are also popular – you'll likely get the most money for matching sets of posh jars, eg, Bonne Maman, but we've seen assorted bundles of bog-standard jars selling too.

You'll probably need to sell in bulk

Most of these items are sold in bulk, eg, 50 toilet roll tubes for £5, so it might take you a while to collect enough to sell – and you'll need somewhere to store them.

Some items such as empty perfume bottles, however, can often be sold individually. Jam jars, for example, can be sold in twos and threes.

How much can this rubbish typically fetch?

There are a number of different ways to sell your rubbish (see a full list below). But to get an idea of what you can make, we crunched the numbers on some 'recently sold' eBay listings.

You might have doubts about whether people will buy your junk, but we saw 100s of items being successfully sold – we've added the number of bundles sold on eBay in the last three months to the table below to give you an idea of how widespread this is.

Rubbish sales on eBay
  Avg price per item (1) Max price we found per item No of bundles sold in last three months
Coat hangers 51p £2.50 492
Wine corks 13p 64p 420
Empty perfume bottles £3 £8 274
Jam jars 50p £1.35 205
Toilet roll tubes 10p 35p 152
Champagne corks 17p 70p 136
Glass coffee jars £1.75 £5 75
Can ring pulls 1p3p 64
Glass ramekins 40p £1.17 49
Plastic milk bottle tops 5p 13p 36
Kitchen roll tubes 16p 35p 26
(1) Based on MSE analysis of last 25 sales. Feb 2017

Tell us what you've sold and what you got for it in the Flog Your Rubbish forum thread.

Quick questions

Who on earth actually buys this stuff?

What CAN'T I sell?

Are there any restrictions on sending things such as perfume bottles through the post?


Where's best to sell my rubbish?

There are a few different ways to sell your rubbish online, including online auction sites and classified ads. You'll need to weigh up what's best and most convenient, depending on what you're selling – factor in postage costs and fees charged by the site too.

Some sites may be better than others for certain items, eg, when we checked we only saw loo roll tubes being sold on eBay, but jam jars were advertised on all these sites.

  • eBay* appears to have the widest range of these items, and is usually the first port of call for selling unwanted goods online. It offers seller protection if you get proof of delivery, which gives you some security selling remotely. But you'll have to pay – you can list 20 items free each month but it still charges you 10% of the price of every sold item. See our eBay selling guide for more tips.
  • Gumtree is a popular classifieds site, which doesn't charge any fees for selling. You can sell items face-to-face or by post, though beware if doing the latter as, although it offers customer service, there's less formal seller protection than with eBay.
  • Preloved* is another second-hand selling site, which is free to advertise on. Again, you can sell face-to-face or by post, but there's limited seller protection so selling remotely isn't recommended.
  • Facebook groups & Facebook Marketplace let you sell to others in your community for free. We don't recommend posting items to strangers from Facebook, so it's best to meet buyers face-to-face – see our safety warnings below. Our Facebook selling guide has more tips.

How to sell safely – do it face-to-face unless using eBay. Although some sites let you sell face-to-face and remotely, beware selling remotely unless you're using eBay, where you can see buyers' feedback and get strong seller protection. Gumtree and Preloved say face-to-face selling is best, as buyers can see the item, and sellers can ensure they receive payment.

If meeting your buyer in person, use your common sense. For smaller goods, do the exchange in a busy public place. If they must come to your house, try to do the exchange on your doorstep, don't feel pressured to let them inside and make sure someone else is in the house when the buyer visits.

You may also be able to flog these items at car boot sales, but it's worth visiting your local car booty to do some research in advance, before you commit to paying for a pitch. Bear in mind that offline, you've a more limited customer base so niche items may be less likely to attract a buyer. For hints and tips, ask on the eBay, Auctions, Car Boot & Jumble Sales forum board.

How to max it

cork

To make money from this, you'll need to collect enough items to sell in bulk. It's worth checking current and sold listings online to find out what amount sells best. To speed up the process, you could ask friends, family or colleagues to help you collect items – as long as they're not planning on selling their own.

Here are a few tips to help:

  • Only sell your junk if it's in decent condition. Remember, the items will likely be used for craft projects so they need to be in good nick, ie, clean, dry and not damaged.
  • Upload quality snaps so buyers know exactly what they're getting. Good photos are crucial for showing that your items are clean and usable. Your stack of toilet rolls will be competing with lots of very similar-looking toilet rolls in the listings – so make sure yours have the best lighting. The more eye-catching listings we saw had toilet roll tubes arranged in the number available, eg, spelling out '50'.
  • Use the right keywords. To make sure your listing is seen by the right people, choose your keywords carefully. On eBay, do this by searching for the item you want to sell, and selecting the 'sold listings' option on the left-hand toolbar. You'll then be able to see which keywords make for the most successful sales – eg, for toilet roll tubes, 'school', 'art', 'craft', 'gardening' and 'seeds' are winners.
  • Don't forget postage costs. This can be vital – if you're selling remotely, make sure you factor in postage costs. Do some research in advance to ensure you charge the right amount, depending on the weight and bulk of what you're selling.
  • Save on packaging. You'll need to pack whatever you're posting carefully, but to save on the cost of packaging, ask your local supermarket or corner shop if they have any spare cardboard boxes. If you're posting delicate items, such as jam jars, old newspapers are a good, cheap way to protect them.

What to watch out for

Local auction houses

There are a few final things to consider when selling your rubbish online.

Do I need to pay tax?

If you're flogging old unwanted stuff like the items listed above, there's NO tax to pay. But become a trader, making goods or selling on items you'd bought with the intention of reselling them, and it IS taxable. There are some grey areas, so read this HM Revenue & Customs guide to work out if you need to tell the taxman about income made from online sales.

Two new tax breaks, which were supposed to have applied to earnings from 6 April 2017, have been quietly axed by the Government. See our Government drops £1,000 tax breaks for online sellers and room renters - for now news story for full details.

Am I guaranteed to make cash?

Nothing is guaranteed, and it's quite possible you could end up listing something for sale and getting no takers. Though all the items listed above were successfully sold online in a three month period– and as our analysis shows, there have been 100s of this kind of sale in the last few months alone.

Of course, there is the danger that if this becomes super popular, the price of loo roll tubes will plummet as people flock to sites such as eBay to sell their stash. Yet this concept isn't brand-new. It's been covered in the past by other sites, such as Skint Dad, and people are still managing to sell their rubbish for decent amounts.

Is it worth it?

This is probably the big question – and the answer really depends on your point of view.

It does take some time and effort to collect enough items, and then list them online and package them for sale. You also have to factor in potential fees if you use eBay, as well as postage costs. But while you're unlikely to make big bucks from this, it's still a good way to boost your income using items you would have otherwise recycled or thrown away.

For more ways to earn a little extra cash, see 68 Ways to Boost Your Income and 34 Ways to Make Money Online.

Have you managed to sell your old junk for cash? Let us know how you got on in the forum.

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