I’ve been wanting to write a post about this topic for some time now. Thanks to my five year old nanny child and her enthusiastic love for recycling, I feel more inclined than ever to share some much needed tips about recycling outside of the kitchen. That’s right, OUTSIDE of the kitchen. Mind blown? I thought so. Most of us have one recycling bin in our house and it sits quite nicely next to our garbage bin under our kitchen sink. First of all, bravo for doing that much. Secondly, there are dozens of other things around your house in different rooms that deserve to be recycled rather than thrown out. The easiest way for these things to be placed in the right bin is to have both bins in more rooms than just your kitchen. Everyone is going to start doing this at some point, so be the trendsetter and get started!
Let’s go room by room. Imagine a second bin, basket or box next to each of your trash cans around your house for recycling. Before going out and buying a brand new recycling bin, look around your house for an empty box, a bucket or basket that could be used just as easily as a recycling bin. These options would probably even look a lot nicer in your bedroom and guest room rather than a big, blue, plastic container. Get crazy and decorate it if you have the skill and the eye for it! Think old wrapping paper, sharpies, markers, paint, Mod Podge, magazine clippings, etc. Decorate to match the room! Save yourself some money and eliminate another plastic item from your home.
GENERAL RULES OF THUMB
1. #1 and #2 plastics are widely accepted for recycling around the country. If your plastics have a 1 or 2 in the recycling symbol somewhere, then you’re good to throw it in. Check with your city’s recycling center to see if you can also throw in #5 or any other types of plastics before you add it to your curbside recycling.
2. Always give recyclables a quick rinse. There’s no need to run it through the dishwasher, but a quick rinse helps the sanitizing and sorting process later.
3. Caps and lids, unless more than 3″ in diameter (but check with your city), cannot be recycled. Also check the plastic number of the lid or cap because it’s possible that it’s a different kind of plastic than the container and shouldn’t be mixed. Best rule of thumb here is to throw away lids and caps, unfortunately. If you’re curious as to why, read this short description.
Unfortunately a lot of paper products we use in the bathroom have to be thrown away. Used toilet paper (duh), tissues, cotton balls, q-tips, floss, face pads, etc. are all throw aways. Big bummer, but the packaging that these items come in are mostly recyclable! Bright side! Here’s a list of items, when emptied, that would fill your bathroom recycling bin and reduce your bathroom waste (not that kind of waste). Also, check out this helpful graphic from Earth911 that describes the kinds of plastic your medicine cabinet items are made from and what they can be recycled into; like outdoor furniture made from recycled lotion bottles!
- Tissue box
- Q-tip box
- Lotion bottles (rinsed)
- Shampoo/Conditioner bottles (rinsed)
- Face wash bottles or squeeze-able containers (rinsed)
- Pill bottles (prescription label off) or REUSE IT
- Sunscreen tubes/bottles (rinsed)
- Toilet paper rolls or CRAFT IT
- Nail polish remover bottle
- Body wash bottle
- Tampon box (just the box!)
- Cotton ball bag or box
- Deodorant containers (check with your city)
- Mouthwash bottles
- Men’s shaving cream/aftershave bottles
- Certain kinds of toothbrushes and razors like Preserve (This company is awesome. Everything is made from recycled #5 plastics like yogurt containers)
- Other products that come in a cardboard box, plastic bag or bottle
If you work from home everyday or even just a few days a week, you probably have an office space at home. With an office comes paper, envelopes, post-its, computers, printers, shredders, copy machines, fax machines, pens, pencils, etc. Eventually this stuff runs out, breaks down or becomes outdated. Then what? Here’s a list of office items that can be recycled. Place a small recycle bin below your desk and prevent tons of recyclable paper from going into the trash.
- Paper (including envelopes, post-its, notebooks, newspaper, magazines, books, brochures, etc.) or REUSE it: If you have a shredder, or scissors and lots of time and patience, cut up or shred unwanted paper items and reuse them for packaging materials. Whether you’re moving, shipping a package or wrapping a gift, paper shreds are great for preventing things from breaking. Use leftover Ziploc bags or empty cotton ball bags from your bathroom and fill them with paper shreds for a less messy packaging option.
- Cans and bottles (whether you drink water, coffee or beer while you work)
- Ink and toner cartridges at Staples
- Computers (desktop or laptop) at Staples or local electronic recycling center. Seattle try Interconnection! Interconnection focuses on reusing first. They refurbish old computers and donate them around the world to nonprofits and low income communities. Aren’t you glad there’s people out there thinking of and doing this stuff?! Support them!
- Monitors at Staples or local electronic recycling center
- Printers, fax machines, copiers, shredders, all-in-ones at Staples or local electronic recycling center
- Computer mouse, keyboards, modems, routers and speakers at Staples or local electronic recycling center
- Pens, pencils, sharpies, highlighters and markers can be recycled through a company called Terracycle
To be honest, there are very few things I can think of that I throw away or recycle in my bedroom. Kids rooms on the other hand, are full of random scraps, lost caps, Barbie shoes and Legos that I’m sure most parents just trash right away. Have your kids decorate an empty cardboard box or decorate one for your bedroom and get ready to throw these recyclables in there:
- Paper scraps from your artsy kids projects or REUSE IT
- Pens, pencils, sharpies, markers and highlighters can be recycled through Terracycle
- Shoe boxes or decorate and reuse for storage around the house
- Shopping bags or reuse as…..a bag again
- Empty paint bottles (rinsed) or reuse to store beads, Barbie accessories, stickers, game pieces, etc.
- Cards (birthday, Christmas, invitations, etc.) or REUSE IT
- Tissue boxes
- Empty candle jar (wax removed) or REUSE IT
- Magazines or make bows!!
- Kid’s work/activity books or display pages as art
- Bottles from glitter, glue, play dough, clay, paints, etc. (rinsed)
If you haven’t tried making your own laundry products yet, then you probably have a laundry room full of Tide, All and Clorox products. I’m guilty of this too. As I’ve slowly been making the switch to either DIY all natural products or buying brands that use no chemicals, I still have those almost empty lingering bottles of laundry detergent in my closet. Since there’s no reason to waste it, use what’s left. When it comes to buying new stuff I recommend buying brands like 7th Generation, 365, Ecover or Earth Friendly Products. Here’s a great link to an article from Grist reviewing top “green laundry detergents.” Back to the point! You can recycle a whole lot of things from your laundry room. Here’s a good list of what would go in your laundry room recycle bin:
- Laundry detergent bottles (rinsed out) or REUSE IT
- Dryer sheet boxes
- Laundry detergent buckets
- Fabric softener bottles
- Stain remover bottles
- Laundry detergent boxes
- Bar soap boxes
These ideas are intended to get you thinking about recycling in more rooms than just your kitchen. Whether you start putting out some small recycle bins around your house or not (but, come on, you will) at least you know what to do with that bottle of lotion thats got a 1/2″ of unreachable product at the bottom. Always think REUSE before recycle, then start focusing on reducing. Make it clear which bins are recycling and which are trash so your guests know what to do! And obviously share with them what you’re doing because we all know that word spreads like wildfire. I hope this helps! Happy recycling.