Tips for Expanding Recycling at Home

Think you are a recycling pro? There is always room for a little improvement! Whether you are ready to step up your efforts or just want to make it easier for your family to recycle more, these strategies will point you in the right direction.

Put a bin next to your kitchen garbage can
It is important to make recycling obvious and easy for your family. Keep a blue kitchen-sized garbage can next to your regular garbage can in the kitchen so your family and guests are always thinking about recycling. When it is full, you can put the contents into the one large recycling can or into bins for separation.

  • Reduce: An important tool in the recycling effort is to minimize what you bring into your home that never has to be recycled in the first place. Try buying in bulk to minimize packaging. For example, rather than buying pudding “snack packs” for school lunches, make pudding and divide into small plastic containers that can be washed and reused. Reducing consumption is a great way to benefit the environment.
  • Reuse: Avoid throwing things away, period. Outgrown clothing can be donated to local charities and recycling companies; collection containers can be found in many school parking lots and other public places for easy drop offs. Some charities will even pick up your donations.
    • Old mayonnaise bottles and lids can be used to store small items in the garage or workshop. Place various sized nails, screws, and anchors in a jar on your workbench.
    • Books in good condition could be donated to the library, a local homeless shelter, or hospital.
    • Reuse packing boxes and supplies from things you buy to send packages to family members living away from home.
    • See below for more common household items you will be surprised can be collected for reuse and recycling!
  • Buy recycled: Secondary markets for recycled products often drive the finances of recycling. A commitment to buy recycled paper for the computer printer, mulch from recycled products for the garden, and other such products will help the secondary markets flourish and make recycling available in more places.
  • Compost: Reduce your trash another 30% by collecting food scraps and napkins. A simple compost pile in your backyard will reduce waste and create excellent soil for your garden!

Put a recycling bin in the bathroom
You may not think of your bathroom as a place for recycling, but you can take recycling beyond the kitchen by adding a recycling bin to the bathroom. It’s the easiest way to capture those shampoo, body wash, and mouthwash bottles, plus paper packaging from soap cartons and other products.

  • Plastic Bottles: You do not need to thoroughly rinse shampoo, body wash, and other bottles before recycling. Just empty the contents, replace the cap, and recycle. Plastic pumps in bottles (e.g. lotion) are not yet recyclable. Empty the contents, discard the pump, and recycle the bottle.
  • Boxes and cardboard: Razor box, tissue box, toilet paper rolls, and toothpaste boxes.
  • Aerosol cans: Air freshener, deodorant, hairspray, shaving cream, and sunscreen. Empty aerosol cans (deodorant, hairspray, and sunscreen) are recyclable with other aluminum or steel cans.

Hard-to-recycle items

Don’t stop with single stream! There are many unique items that can be collected and recycled with specialized local collectors. Examples include: electronics (anything with a cord); rechargeable batteries; plastic bags; art supplies; bicycles and bike accessories; clothes, shoes, and textiles; building and construction materials; medical equipment (wheelchairs, canes, crutches, walkers, etc.).

For a one-stop drop, mark your calendar for Sunday April 3rd and go to St. Louis Earth Day’s Recycling Extravaganza where many of these companies and non profit organizations will be participating!