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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
  • Cindy W. 2 months ago
    We've been recycling for so long that it has become a habit.
  • wayne w. 2 months ago
    Our small municipality gave us clear and concise instructions of how to recycle, what to recycle and when to recycle plus a huge recycling container. We do not separate recyclables ....they do. It is paramount to please place the correct clean recycled items in the
    clean bin .
  • Bj S. 2 months ago
    I keep a glass and can bucket and a trash can for paper and on recycle day I put the cans and bottles and the papers on top. This methods allows the weight of the bottles to push out the paper and makes it easier for the workers to empty the container
  • tommy b. 2 months ago
  • Vicki G. 2 months ago
    My fiance and I moved in together 8 months ago and we're still working out what works best for us. In the kitchen I have a can for trash and a can for mixed stream. We salvage cans, so in my pantry I've been keeping a garbage bag for those. I have a gallon ice cream tub for compost under my sink. For the bathrooms, 2 have just a single can that everything goes in and what little trash ends up there I just take out. Our master bath is where most of the trash is generated (personal hygiene and toiletry refuse), so I have 2 cans in there. The laundry closet has a tiny bucket where lint goes. Most of my system works ok, but there are places where I'm working to get it more efficient and easy
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