I installed a smaller single pullout garbage can similar to this one (mine is discontinued) and I’m glad I did. (I can’t live without the products I mention in this post and believe in them so strongly I’m willing to use my affiliate links to do it!)
Little did I know that using a kitchen trash can smaller than our household recycling bin would be the incentive for my family to eventually start recycling and reducing waste in almost every way we can. In addition to reusing, and refusing, we starting recycling to the max using local businesses and organizations that recycle the items our curbside city recycling program does not.
How do I recycle in a small space while keeping the collection bins accessible and from cluttering up the house? Keep reading and I’ll show you how!
7 Small Space Recycling Solutions
Let’s take a tour of my small space recycling centers!
Like I mentioned before, we use a recycling bin in the garage that is bigger than our household trash can in the kitchen. It unconsciously encourages us to take the small extra effort to put stuff in recycling container in the garage off the kitchen because it is bigger and needs to be dumped in the outdoor bin less often because if the recycling bin needs emptying it is always during bad weather. Why is that?
The red coffee can is to collect vegetable scraps when composting season starts (when the compost bin isn’t covered in snow and frozen shut.) Pardon the botched attempt in trying to pretty up a container I was given to “do something clever with it.”Actually almost all of the wastepaper baskets in the house are similar to these 5 liter step trash cans with a removable liner bucket. Originally I got them because the lid keeps the dog from diving for gross stuff to eat as snacks and they don’t need bin liners. I empty all of them into the repurposed bag in the kitchen bin when it is time to take the trash out. Again, keeping the waste can smalls encourages taking recyclables to the bin instead of filling up the small bathroom trash cans. It also keeps it from stinking up the room too. Bonus!
Our main recycling bin for glass, metal, paper, and number 1-4 plastics and number 5 plastic lids is nothing fancier than the tall kitchen garbage can from our old apartment. It lives in the garage. When it is full I empty it into the city recycling bin outside. Next to it is a gifted basket that collects our Number 5 plastic containers to recycle through Preserve's Gimmie 5 bin at Whole Foods. Again, this is pretty much the only time I go to Whole Foods, just to breeze in, drop off my #5s, breeze out and WF is cool with it. Whole Foods also has a bin to recycle natural wine corks but I use the corks you see below are to winterize our rain barrel and I don't have a good place to put them during the spring and summer.
It's not fancy, but it works!
I didn’t think we’d have many #5s since we don’t eat a lot of yogurt or prepared foods (one of the benefits of a food allergy I suppose) but once we started collecting them, we generate more than I realize to make it worth the effort.
And speaking of fiddly things I collect for recycling that aren’t too much to make it a hardship when I forget to drop them off (which is pretty much always, I usually remember to drop this stuff once a year on Earth Day because they sometimes do a promotion.) I use a super fancy shoe box in the garage to collect plastic health and beauty product tubes to recycle at the Origins makeup counter, batteries (including dead rechargeable) I recycle at a local mall. We are switching over to affordable LED light bulbs like these as the CFL light bulbs burn out. I recycle the dead CFL light bulbs at Lowes or Home Depot.
I’ve been telling myself I should upgrade to a better looking bin but since we don’t have a lot to fill it or empty it often, it is out of sight out of mind disease in my (Dog) Mom Cave.
Finally we come to plastic bags
I use the pile of reusable cloth shopping bags for groceries and such as much as possible. That keeps the plastic bag population down significantly. Of course, the minute I was patting myself on the back for that we ran out of the big plastic grocery bag stash someone gave us to use for dog waste pickup and household trash. That’s when I had to punt.
I still use reusable shopping bags for groceries, except sometimes at Trader Joe's I'll ask for their paper bags for the kitchen trash can (my store also keeps a box of paper bags you can drop off or grab a few to reuse at home.) I also use large parts packing bags for kitchen trash. Luckily we produce about one grocery size bag full of landfill trash on most good weeks.
Any plastic bag that is too small to use for household trash (frozen fruit and vegetables, packing parts bags, bread bags, magazine bags, etc.which is 90% of the bags that come in the house) usually goes into one of two places. Either, in the hanging grocery bag dispenser like this one to be used for doggy duty (I close the end with a bread tie if I can’t tie a knot in the end) hanging off the door in the laundry room next to the kitchen.
When the laundry room grocery bag holder is full I swap it out with the grocery bag holder I have hanging in the front closet. I use the plastic bags in the holder to refill the pick up bag holder hanging from Lacey’s leash. Keeping things like this right there and easy to use is another secret to our success.
Finally small number 4 plastic bags that are too small to use for trash, dog waste, as well as bubble wrap, plastic packing pillows, clean packaging wrap I can't cut and remove to use as a trash bag go in a Chicobag grocery tote bag I hang on the doorknob on the back side of the laundry room door so I can forget to take them to the bin at Giant Eagle for recycling since I rarely shop there to begin with. (Trader Joe's, Aldi, and Sagara International Market are my favorite grocery stores and they don't have bins.)
These aren't pretty or perfect solution but it works for us. How do you recycle in a small space?
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