How to Make a Home Recycling System Work for You
Building a recycling station for your home is a great way to build eco-friendly habits and teach your family about the importance of sustainability. However, good habits aren’t learned overnight, nor are they one-size-fits-all. That said, the first—and most important—step when creating an at-home recycling system is ensuring that it’ll work with your household’s budget, lifestyle, and routine. This will help your family stick with recycling long-term.
It’s also crucial to adopt a recycling system that requires very little to no effort to use or maintain. Remember: The more complicated the system, the more difficult it’ll be to get your household on board. When creating your home recycling center, aim to make recycling as easy and convenient as possible. For example, use containers that are lightweight, clearly labeled, and easy to empty. You may want to also consider positioning your recycling system in a location that’s easy to access and not too far from your curb.
Ready to introduce an at-home recycling center into your family’s routine? Here are five easy steps to making a DIY recycling center.
5 Simple Steps to Create Your Personalized Home Recycling Station
Like other aspects of living sustainably, an at-home recycling program starts with finding an organizing system that works for you. It’s more than just setting things up; it’s about making adjustments as you go to make the system work for you and your household.
Get to Know Your Local Recycling Standards
An important step to creating a sustainable at-home recycling system is to understand your local recycling standards. Not every recycling center will accept the same materials. Before setting up your recycling station, you need to know which items your local recycling center will take.
Throwing items in recycling bins without knowing if it’s recyclable, known as “wishcycling,” can actually make things worse. If a bin contains an item that isn’t recyclable, it’s possible that all of the items in the bin will not be recycled, ending up in landfills and oceans instead. In addition to researching which types of materials are recyclable, check how these items need to be prepared before recycling. Many recycling centers do not accept any items with food or liquids on them, even if they are made with recyclable materials. It’s a good rule of thumb to always give your containers a good rinse before tossing them into the recycling bin.
After making a list of the materials and items accepted by your recycling center, you’ll have a better idea of how much space you’ll need for your at-home recycling system, as well as the bin sizes required. For example, if your family generally consumes two gallons of milk a week, and your local center will accept plastic milk jugs, you’ll need to have a bin that’s at least large enough to accommodate those jugs, along with other plastic waste.
Evaluate Your Recycling Trends & Needs
Before creating your recycling system, it’s important to understand your household’s unique recycling trends. Track your recycling habits over the course of a few weeks. Take note of which items you’re recycling and how much of each material you recycle each week.
For example, keep track of how many items you have for the following categories: glass jars, cardboard boxes, and plastic bottles. It’s also important to record the size of each item. If you often recycle large cardboard boxes, you may want to plan on a larger storage container for your cardboard items. Understanding the size and amount of different materials you consume each week will help you determine exactly how much storage space you’ll need.
It’s also important to note where in your house you use these recyclable products. If you notice you use a lot of paper in your home office, it may be useful to include a bin for paper products in that area of your house. Perhaps you noticed you use a lot of aluminum cans or cardboard packaging in your kitchen while cooking. Recognizing these trends can help you place storage containers throughout your house to make your system more efficient.
Define Your Storage Space & Categories
Now that you have a better understanding of your recycling trends, it’s time to plan your recycling storage! Create a list of storage containers, the amount of space, and recycling categories you’ll need in order to create your at-home recycling system.
Start by determining the rooms in which you’ll want to place recycling bins. Smaller bins can be great for bedrooms, offices, and bathrooms. For rooms where you tend to create more waste, like the kitchen, taller bins may be more convenient. Finally, plan on where you’ll collect all of your recyclables each week. For large amounts of recyclables, tall, lidded bins are best. Find an area with lots of space, like your garage or backyard, where you can keep these containers.
Also determine how many containers you’ll need for each material category. If you notice your household uses a lot of plastic items throughout the house, plan on getting several bins for plastics. However, for less frequently used materials like paper, one or two bins might be sufficient.
Plan for Backup Solutions
Life is constantly changing, which is why it’s important to have backup storage solutions available so you can quickly adapt your at-home recycling storage if needed. During the holiday season, for example, households tend to produce more waste. An uptick in waste is also common after parties and other celebrations.
There may also be disruptions in recycling collection due to weather, holidays, or labor shortages. If your local recycling pick-up service is delayed, have a backup plan in place. Locate your local recycling center and identify their drop-off hours and procedures. Have extra recycling bins on-hand to keep up with the increase in recyclables after situations and occasions such as these.
You also want to have a plan in place that keeps recycling convenient for your household, despite the changes in weather. If you usually keep your recycling bins outside in the summer, create a storage plan that allows you to easily access them even during the cold winter months. Assign somebody in the household to be responsible for moving the recycling bins inside before any anticipated rain showers or snow falls. Alternatively, you could purchase an outdoor garbage can shed to shield your recyclables from the elements..
Create a Routine & Reevaluate Periodically
The initial implementation of a recycling system is only the first step. The next step is to build a reliable, repeatable, and predictable recycling routine with everyone in your household.
Start by educating other members of your household about what can and cannot be recycled. Turning it into a fun game can help children and teens become interested in the process. It’s also a good idea to keep a reference chart next to your recycling bins so your family members can double-check its recyclability before throwing it into the recycling bin.
Remember, it’s important to focus on progress, not perfection. Once your family gets into the routine of recycling, it’s important to periodically reevaluate your recycling system to see how it can be improved. As time goes by, you might notice the need to relocate recycling bins or change what materials you’re recycling. Continue to make these adjustments and you’ll be building better recycling habits that last a lifetime!
Start Recycling at Home With an Easy DIY Recycling Center
It may not be as difficult as you think to create a sustainable recycling system for your home. There are three keys to making your recycling routine stick: easy, convenient, and customized.
The easier it is for your household to recycle, the more likely they are to stick with it. Keeping bins in a convenient location can help your family more readily adopt recycling into their daily routine. Finally, customize the system to your family’s needs and capabilities. The most important part of building a successful at-home recycling center is creating one that is sustainable for your lifestyle.
From there, it’s a five-step process to set up custom, at-home recycling system:
- Understand local recycling rules and regulations.
- Evaluate your recycling trends and needs.
- Optimize storage and categorization according to your needs.
- Plan for backup storage or recycling solutions.
- Review and adjust to create a reliable routine.