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Because You Asked

Because You Asked: How Should I Put Out My Recycling?

By Recyclebank |

Learn how to set up a system that works for you.

Dear Recyclebank: I’m committed to recycling, but I’m not sure that what I put my recyclables in at home is the best practice. I have an extra trash can and use a regular white garbage bag in it. When it’s full, we take it out to the container that was issued to us for pickup. How should it be done? –Gayleen W.

Dear Gayleen: There are as many ways to collect your recyclables in your home as there are requirements for collection day. Some programs, like yours, supply bins or carts for pickup, while others require you to buy your own. In cases where you’re expected to buy your own, some haulers will specify the type of container you must use, and some will just encourage you to use whatever you have available. Certain programs may tell you to bag your recyclables, and in a specific type of bag (such as clear bags in New York City, or the blue bags that were formerly used in Chicago), in which case a regular trash bag won’t work. However, many areas don’t require bagging at all. If your program doesn’t state that collection bags should be used, it may be best to avoid them, as plastic bags can be tricky to recycle.

Once you’ve checked your hauler’s requirements to make sure that you’re not contaminating your recyclables or thwarting their sorting, you can start figuring out what collection methods work best for you in your own home. Some tips and tricks you may find helpful:

Getting Recyclables To Your Pickup Bin

  • Put your pickup bin in the most convenient spot possible. If you leave it outdoors but have room in a garage and/or close to a doorway, try keeping it there for easier access.
  • Time permitting, it may be easier for you to make smaller trips to your pickup container throughout the week instead of one big trip once a week. More small trips may help you avoid clutter and heavy lifting, but fewer big trips could be more efficient. Try them out and choose the solution that works best for you.

Collecting Recyclables In Your Home

  • For starters, keep your recyclables separate from trash at all times to avoid confusion and contamination.
  • A small bin in each room where you frequently accumulate recyclable items (kitchen, living room, office, bathroom, and so on) can help you stay organized. If you are making more frequent trips to your container, you can rotate emptying each room’s bin, for example, one per day or week.
  • If your program requires you to sort your recycling by material, keep separate bins throughout the house, and clearly label them by type of recyclable material to make it easy for you to sort as you go. (It’ll also keep kids and guests from getting confused and making extra work for you.) On the other hand, if your program is single-stream — meaning all sorting takes place at a recycling facility instead of in your home — you don’t need to go through that effort; save the time and the bin liners!
  • In the kitchen, it may be easiest to keep cans and bottles by the sink or on a windowsill for quick trips to the pickup bin later. As always, make sure to rinse out any residue first.

NYC Department of Sanitation

What tricks do you use to keep your recyclables sorted and on the move? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Share with Your Friends & Family
  • Janet J. 2 months ago
    I contact day care schools and elementary schools to see if any teacher would be interested in any of my recyclables for additional products for crafts. learning, etc. A lot of the schools are interested.
  • June S. 2 months ago
    I don't have curbside recycling, but the county has several locations where I can take my recycling. They have 3 types of containers - one for glass (separate sections for clear glass and colored glass), one for cardboard boxes, and one for mixed recyclables (cereal boxes, cans, plastic, etc. I make a trip there about once a week to drop off my recycling. The Publix grocery store near me also has small collection bins outside for cans and paper, and they also have one for plastic bags (including zipper bags and plastic wrap) and one for the styrofoam trays meat and eggs come in. I drop off those items about every other week at the Publix. Most of the grocery stores in our area have recycle bins for paper, cans and bottles, and plastic bags, but Publix is the only one I've seen that takes the styrofoam containers. I was thrilled to find out I had one less thing to put in my trash. I keep a paper bag near my trash can to hold my recyclables (except glass bottles and jars, the plastic bags, and the styrofoam) so I can dump bag and all at the recycle facility. I have far more recycling than I do trash, and that's a good thing!
  • Audrey N. 2 months ago
    I live in an apartment and they have zero recycling, it horrible. I do take what I can in a plastic garbage bag over to my fathers but I know I end up throwing away more recyclable material than I should bc I really have no where to store it in my apartment and don’t want it to stink or get bugs. I really wish they had a recycling container here but they just don’t care, it’s really a shame.
  • Elena B. 2 months ago
    nope, I am not keeping my kitchen sink looking like that! we have a smaller bin under the sink where we put all recyclables in and empty it as needed. Haven't used my trash compactor for recyclables in a while since we got a larger curbside bin.
  • July M. 2 months ago
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