You want to do your part to help the environment, and you know that recycling is one of the easiest ways to make it a part of your daily routine. But during a busy week, it’s hard enough to keep up with the overflowing trash, let alone sorting paper, plastic, glass, metal—and what about electronics and batteries?
Take a deep breath and relax, because it’s much easier than you think. Here are the best ways to organize your home recycling system so it’s easy, organized, and efficient.
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Make Home Recycling Easy
- First, find out what you can and cannot recycle in your community. This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s surprising how many people have no idea what their local recyclers accept. Most places with curbside recycling accept office paper and newspaper, junk mail, glass, and food and beverage cans. In addition, some programs also accept plastic food containers like those used for yogurt, cottage cheese, shredded cheese, and pre-made salsa and dips. Call your municipal solid waste manager, usually located in the city or county offices where you live, or look on your municipality’s website. Print out the materials you can recycle and keep it handy—perhaps even hung on the wall next to your trash and recycling.
- Is there room for a recycling bin in your kitchen, either under a counter or in a pull-out drawer? Or maybe there’s more room on your back porch or in a mudroom or pantry? Wherever it is, make sure to dedicate a space that’s as convenient as possible.
- Find a place near your mailbox or entryway or in your office for paper. Some people put a recycling bin near their mailbox, so that the junk mail never even makes it inside the home!
- Use a dedicated box or bin for your recycling. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It just needs to remind you that it’s there to be filled up! In your office or living room, you can use a decorative box or basket or bin with a lid so it’s not unsightly—or simply repurpose a cardboard box. For cans, bottles, and food containers, a plastic recycling bin is better. Many communities provide residents with free bins. Otherwise, they’re easily available and cheap at your local hardware store.
- Avoid piles and stacks. Don’t pile papers up; toss them in the recycling bin as soon as you’re finished reading them. Don’t stack up empty bottles and cans, either. Recycling them right away reduces clutter.
- Don’t put your recyclables in plastic bags. Many recycling facilities still don’t deal well with plastic. You’ll be defeating the purpose if you put your papers in a plastic bag, though it’s fine to put them in a paper bag.
- Wash out cans, bottles, and jars. Especially if you are keeping your recycling bin outdoors, give the containers a quick rinse before you toss them so they don’t attract animals or bugs. Otherwise, keep a lid on the bin, which is a good idea anyway in the event of rain.
Don’t Put E-Waste and Hazardous Materials in Your Home Recycling System
- Recycle hazardous waste separately. Most curbside recycling programs will not pick up hazardous waste or paint. However, many municipalities offer an annual drop-off program to accept items that pose a health threat or pollute. Store hazardous materials in a separate bin with a lid or on a high shelf in a shed or garage until you can take them to a recycling drop-off point or a recycling center that will accept them.
- Recycle electronics at community drop-offs or at retailers that accept them. Best Buy, Staples, and many mobile device retailers accept old computers, tablets, fax machines, and phones. Phones and computers can also be wiped of all personal data and donated to community groups and non-profits. Don’t throw electronics in the trash or the recycling.
Make it a Habit
- Make it easy to get your recycling to the curb. You can get recycling bins on rollers so you can roll your bins down to the curb instead of carrying them.
- Do it daily. As part of kitchen clean-up after dinner, round up all the empty cans and bottles and take a minute to toss them in the bin. Do the same with papers you finish with at the end of the day.
- Get the kids involved. Recycling is a simple chore any child over the age of 7 can do, as long as there are no sharp edges on a can. One easy way to have kids help is to put recyclables in a paper bag with handles, and then have your child empty the bag into the bin. If kids are helping set the table, clear the table, and do the dishes, they can help recycle!