Today, in honor of America Recycles Day, let’s talk about something that has confounded me since I began collecting stuff for recycling many years ago: Why aren’t there more good-looking, easy-to-use recycling bins available to use inside one’s living space? Why don’t more interior designers and home renovators incorporate recycling into home storage plans all over the house? For recycling to really work well in a home, where it’s convenient and easy for everyone to do it (especially children), recyclable materials should be collected as close as possible to the “hotspots” where they’re generated. Which means, at least at our house, the kitchen, bathrooms and office. I mean, if Americans put waste baskets and trash bins in several rooms, because we generate trash in those spaces– why not recycling bins? If department stores still sell all those “bath sets” complete with “matching soap dish, shower curtain and waste basket”– and even sometimes a matching toothbrush holder— and/or a tissue box cover— why not add a recycling container to those sets, too??
Let’s take a look at this dilemma by room, with some options–
Kitchen: Some homes, like mine, have room for a recycling bin in the pantry. Some recyclers find space under their kitchen sink or in a broom closet; some kitchens are adjacent to the garage so it’s easy to just walk out and put kitchen recyclables in a garage bin. So “looks” and decor don’t have to matter in those cases, what matters is what fits and what’s functional, so the bin could just be a simple plastic repurposed trash container if going under a sink. But if “hidden space” is not an option, and the garage is far away (or nonexistent) often trash and recycling bins must be out in the open in a kitchen. Luckily there are hundreds of black, white and gray/silver lidded trash bin options available that can match with kitchen appliances and double as recycling bins.
Here are some “less typical” ideas that still pack in the style without cheating on function:
Bathrooms: Where do you put a bin to collect all those empty shampoo bottles, cardboard tissue boxes and toilet paper tubes so that every household member using a bathroom will recycle? If your bathrooms are far away from your kitchen (like on another floor), everyone will not just walk to the kitchen or garage every time they need to save something for recycling. We solved that problem when I found this “Eco Crunch Tote” by Umbra, canvas lined in vinyl, that easily “squishes” to fit into small spaces and can be “hidden,” in our case between a toilet and the wall of the family bathrooms. (I like the artwork on it that implies it’s for recycling without being the traditional “utilitarian” recycling symbol.) Though that particular tote isn’t widely available anymore, here are some “bag bins” that share similar characteristics, i.e. are portable and made of plastic or lined in plastic or coated in wax so they can be easily washed, with no need for wasteful plastic bag liners:
If your bathroom recycling has to be more “out in the open,” here are some options:
From Temu, a 12L “smart-sensor” bin, available in white and blue, $12.99
There are also tiny “countertop” bins available, like the following, that are made for the bathroom and geared toward recycling in small batches; I may try something like this in addition to what we already have, as I recently found out that select Sephora stores, along with Pact Collective, collect small items such as used mascara tubes and dental floss containers!!):
$18.99, 1.5 L, at Amazon
(Note about under-sink bins in kids’ bathrooms—it was hard enough getting my kids to remember to recycle with the out-in-the-open bins; under the sink, out of sight and out of mind would have been even harder!)
Office: My husband and I use a brown paper grocery bag for office paper recycling (old magazines, junk mail, used envelopes, old file folders, etc.); we save used printer ink cartridges in a small space inside a drawer and save documents headed to community paper shredding events in a plain white lidded storage box that sits on the floor. None of that is very exciting but we don’t have space for anything else; if we did, I think I’d repurpose one of our filing cabinets as a “hidden” recycling center—one drawer for ink cartridges, one for paper recycling and one for paper going to shredding. Maybe someday!!
Here is another office option:
How do you recycle?