16 Ways to Organize Your Recycling

Recycling paper, plastic, glass, and other items is an essential part of making your home greener. Implement these easy tips to quickly sort, store, and transport your recyclable items. Going green has never looked better!

Brian Kramer


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Pegboard recycling center
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Do Everything in One Place

    If you have space in a garage, utility room, or mudroom, set up a full-featured spot to sort and gather all items that can be recycled, reused, or returned. Combine stackable containers and label each container with the intended item so everyone in your family can sort as they go.

    DIY Idea: Cover the walls with pegboard so hanging and repositioning bags and wall-mount collectors is easy. Cover the floor with carpet tiles, which are a snap to clean or replace.

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Hang a Bag for Deposit Items

    Taking cans and bottles to your return center is less of a hassle when you dedicate a bag or other container to the job. Hang the bag from a pair of hooks (using two hooks ensures stability) and add a label so everyone knows what items can be returned for a deposit.

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Handle Hazardous Materials Correctly

    Find out how to properly dispose of batteries, light bulbs, electronics, strong chemicals, aerosol containers, and paints in your area. Consult your local waste management service?s website for details. Collect these special items in one container until you have enough to make a special trip.

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Work with Matching Containers

    Find a basic trash receptacle or office container, then purchase at least three so you can sort recyclable items in style.

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Stack Up Bins

    If you're responsible for transporting your recyclables to a center, rely on stackable plastic bins. Label each with stickers or permanent marker and fill with items until recycling day. Be sure to choose containers with adequate lips to prevent contents from spilling out, as well as ones that are small enough to comfortably lift when full.

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Hide Your Recycling Containers

    Conceal your recycling containers with a stylish storage vessel. Hunt down an old wicker laundry basket and place a few garbage cans inside, designating one each for plastics, glass, paper, etc.

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Use Semicustom Cabinets to Help Sort

    Many lines of semicustom cabinets are now available with options and upgrades that make recycling easier. Look for pullout base cabinets that hold a few plastic garbage cans. Designate one bin for trash and the others for recyclables.

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Stack Papers in Cabinet Drawers

    Supplement a trash-bin pullout in your kitchen by gathering newspapers, cardboard, and other flat paper items in a low, unused drawer. Place string or twine for binding in the bottom of the drawer before beginning to stack items, that way you can quickly tie up and carry away the papers.

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Fill Rotating Bins with Recyclables

    Corner cabinets offer lots of space. But they're often difficult to access and smaller items can get lost in the recesses of the cabinet. Make the most of this space by installing a lazy Susan on the bottom of the cabinet and placing recycling bins on top of it. Simply open the door and spin the bins until you reach the correct container. Lift out bins when you're ready to dispose or recycle items.

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Bag It

    Use matching plastic-coated shopping bags with flat bottoms and sturdy handles to sort, store, and transport recycling items. Line up the bags on a deep shelf in your garage or utility room.

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Roll Away Your Cans & Bottles

    An inexpensive wire rolling cart (originally designed to corral office supplies and file folders) scoots into the space under a workbench, desk, or staircase. Drop items directly into the cart or line the compartment with a flat-bottom bag. Tuck away when not in use.

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Low & Labeled

    Use matching baskets to sort recyclables in the low open area underneath a bench or built-in. Protect the baskets with oilcloth liners or treat fabric lines with several coats of spray paint or polyurethane to protect natural fibers from spills and stains.

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Position Reusable Bags by the Door

    If your home is overflowing with bags, set up a three-part storage system by the door to your mudroom or garage. First, stuff used plastic bags in a wall holder. Dangle reusable fabric shopping totes from hooks. Finally, fill a wire wall basket with folded paper sacks.

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Keep Your Car Tidy, Too

    Convert a plastic cereal dispenser into a trash receptacle for your car. Fill with refuse and recyclables while you're driving, then sort or dispose of materials when you return home.

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Try Composting

    Purchase a countertop compost bin or make your own from a small, lidded trash bin. After each meal, transport refuse to a large outdoor container, where the natural material can decompose. With a little practice and planning, you can make free, nutrient-rich material to spread on your plants and throughout your garden.

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Roll Around Recyclables

    Make any container easier to maneuver to the car or curb by outfitting it with rollers or casters. Choose casters with ball bearings, which might cost more but roll more smoothly. Always install at least four casters to any container, and consider including two locking casters if you're worried your container might roll away.

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