The EPA estimates that around 75 percent of solid waste – such as bottles, plastics and glass – is recyclable, but only 30 percent actually makes it into the recycling bin. Recycling is an important, easy way to make your home a “greener” place. And, by helping the planet, you’re improving your own quality of life, too.
Find out what you can recycle. Contact your local Department of Public Works (each department generally has its own website) to find out what materials they process. Items like glass bottles, newspapers and certain plastics are common, but each city has different capabilities and policies. It’s important to adhere to local regulations.
Locate a nearby recycling center. Curbside recycling services are available in many areas; however, depending on where you live you may need to transport your own recycling to a service center.
Purchase your recycling bins. Some areas require you to sort your materials by category (plastics, paper, cans, etc.), while others allow you to mix everything together. Check your local regulations and purchase your bins accordingly. Bins with lids are ideal because they prevent spills and mask odors. Note that some areas allow recycling to be kept in plastic bags while others do not.
Set up your system. Once you have your bins, it’s time to set up your in-house recycling center. Recycled materials can add up, so choose an accessible spot that has a decent amount of space.
Check your glasses and plastics. Plastic and glass items usually have a “chasing arrow” logo encircling a number that indicates their type. This does not automatically make them recyclable. Check your local regulations to see which types are accepted and whether or not they need to be separated from each other.
Clean items before recycling them. Rinse off food or drink residue before placing them in a bin. Clean materials are worth more to recycling facilities and they won’t generate nasty smells in your bins. You don’t need to clean your recyclables as thoroughly as a plate you’re about to eat from, but give them a decent rinse. Bonus: A clean recycling bin won’t attract insects or bugs. For more pest-repellent tips, read: Pest Control: Things With Wings.
Avoid mixing plastic bottles and plastic bags. This is a common mistake. Most recycling plants cannot process these two items together. Check your local regulations to see if plastic bags are accepted separately. If not, see if your local grocery store accepts used plastic bags.
Post instructions near your bins. Depending on your local regulations, you may end up with a fairly complex recycling setup. Post some instructions over your bin(s) specifying which items go where so children and guests can easily follow the rules.