A Guide to Organized and Easy Recycling

Recycling is important, but you shouldn’t have to live with an inconvenient mess while you wait for recycling day to arrive.

| July/August 2001


If you’re an average U.S. citizen, you produce 3.2 pounds of household garbage a day. And if you’re like most Americans, most of that garbage goes to a landfill. “Even though a lot of people are recycling, the amount of waste generated is going up, too,” says Mike Risden, executive director of the Eco­­logy Action recycling drop-off center in Austin, Texas. So while the national recycling rate for municipal refuse tripled between 1980 and 1997, the waste sent to landfills and incinerators still increases substantially every year.

Dealing with disposables and conserving resources is a national problem, but the solution begins in the home. With minimum effort, individuals can reduce the amount of trash they generate by 50 percent or more and keep valuable resources from entering the waste stream before their time.

The key to efficient recycling is a straightforward storage system that fits your daily routine. “Recycling is an effort,” admits Betsy Hall McKinney, a homeowner near Telluride, Colorado. “But when you make it less unsightly and create a system for it, recycling gets more realistic and you’re more inclined to do it.”

When you’re setting up an effective household recycling system, consider these four points: location, presentation, separation, and transportation.


“If you don’t have a place to store your recycling right where it is generated, you tend not to do it because it takes too much extra time and thought to handle it,” McKinney says. Because most recycling is generated in the kitchen, the key is to create a recycling center right there.

“Ideally, the recycling storage plan starts when you’re designing a new house,” says West Long Branch, New Jersey, interior decorator Florence Karasik. “That way you can build it in as part of the kitchen cabinet work.” For instance, McKinney says, “When we were designing our new home, we planned an under-the-counter space near the kitchen sink that is close to where we rinse out our glass bottles and metal containers.” For newspaper, the most appropriate place for collection may be a box in the living room or hallway. For plastic and paper bags, a spot in the pantry may work best.

mother earth news fair


Oct. 21-22, 2017
Topeka, KS.

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, inspirational keynotes, and great food!