Companies That Pay You to Reuse Items You Already Own

Posted by Amanda on July 11, 2011

I am an environmental investigator, and environmental studies was one of my majors in college. Needless to say, environmental issues and living a more sustainable life are important to me. Regardless of whether or not you feel the same, there are many manufacturer and retail environmental programs out there that will save you money—something I’m sure you are interested in. Take a look below and see if you can take advantage of some of these programs.

Reusable Bag Discounts

Around 100 billion plastic bags are used in the US each year—that is a staggering number, especially considering that they are made with petroleum (a very expensive product right now). In some countries you are actually charged per plastic bag that you use. Ireland, for example, has a per plastic bag tax of $0.15 that was introduced in 2002. This resulted in plastic bag use plummeting by 90% within just a few months and 95% after several years. Many countries also have what’s called a PlasTax, such as Switzerland. Even IKEA in the United States charges $0.05 per bag used.

Even though IKEA charges in the US, most US retailers have plastic bag reduction programs that offer a monetary incentive instead. It should be noted that most websites of these companies do not discuss this discount, so please check out your local store’s policy.

  • Target: Bring in any reusable bag and you will save 5 cents off your total purchase per bag. However, the bag must be cloth (not paper or plastic).
  • Whole Foods: Get a $0.05-$0.10 discount per each bag used per shopping trip. This depends on your local Whole Foods store, so be sure to check.
  • CVS: To participate, you must have a CVS ExtraCare Rewards card (free), as well as a leaf-shaped Green Bag Tag Card which can be purchased. I got mine for free because a coupon at one of the in-store coupon scanners (looks like a Redbox) gave me a coupon for a free one. Typically they are $1.00 each. For every fourth visit where you use a reusable bag, you will receive $1 ExtraCare Buck (store credit) for your next purchase. You must scan this Green Bag Tag to get the credits.
  • Trader Joe’s: Many Trader Joe’s stores offer a $0.05 discount per disposable bag. Again, check with your local one to see their policy.

Reusable Mug Discounts

Do you lurk at coffee shops? I generally stop by our local Starbuck’s several times a month as it’s on the way to work and it’s a nice treat. If you don’t frequent a large franchise coffee shop, it is worth it to check with your local coffee and tea shops to see if they offer the same discounts.

  • Peet’s Coffee and Tea: Bring in your own coffee mug for a $0.10 discount. Even better, reuse one of their coffee bags and receive a $0.25 discount.
  • Starbuck’s: Bring a mug of any sort and get $0.10 off of your cup of coffee.
  • Seattle’s Best Coffee: Same idea, and same discount.

Bring in Old Product for Discount on New

  • M-A-C Cosmetics: M-A-C Cosmetics offers the Back to MAC program where if you return 6 M·A·C primary packaging containers to a M·A·C counter or M·A·C Cosmetics online, you’ll receive a free M·A·C lipstick of your choice. You can fill out the form online from the link above.
  • Office Depot: bring in your old tech gadgets, like printers and printer cartridges ($3 per cartridge), and receive instant credit or in-store credit for future purchases.

Cash Back Programs

Sometimes it’s nice just to get cash back for your used items, which is what these following stores offer.

  • Play it Again Sports: This retailer buys, sells, and trades used sports equipment. You can choose several options: have your used equipment purchased from you, use it to trade up to something better, or donate for a tax break (if you itemize your taxes).
  • Local Dry Cleaners: Many local dry cleaners will accept wire hangers back and pay you cash for them. Check with yours.

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Comments to Companies That Pay You to Reuse Items You Already Own

  1. I will have to remember the cartridge deal. I never knew that! We use our bags at Target all the time but we often have to remind the cashier to take the money off.

    Money Beagle

    • I always think I need to set up a box in my cube at work for old cartridges:).

      Amanda L Grossman

  2. Shoprite supermarket also offers 5 cents per bag that you bring in. I think alot of supermarkets are going this route! TJ Maxx and Marshalls sell HUGE reusable shopping totes for $1. I have stocked up on these and they are great for food shopping, or carrying big bulky items like towels to the pool or beach. They are plastic coated cloth, so they are easy to maintain.


  3. I think Office Depot just lowered their cartridge deal to only $2 each. Also, Giant Food gives 5 cents back for each reusable bag.

    Diana B

  4. Here’s a good one for coffee. My Dunkin Donuts charges for a small coffee if you bring your own mug. So I always bring a big mug and get a lot of coffee for 99 cents! Also, there’s usually a coupon for a free donut on your receipt. This makes Starbucks’ deal look weak!


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