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