Simple Steps – Make Recycling Easy For Your Family

We all know the phrase – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  The three R’s of going green and good stewardship of our earthly resources.

While reducing and reusing are the most important of those three, the reality is that we still buy and consume stuff with packaging, or get unwanted junk mail, or sometimes forget to bring our reusable grocery bags to the store and come home with groceries loaded into plastic bags.  (Okay, maybe you never do that, but I unfortunately do!)

Photo by Steve Snodgrass

Recycling has it’s place in every green home, and there are a few simple steps we can take to make recycling easier and more convenient for our busy lives.

This month, take the simple step of making recycling easier for you and your family.

1. Figure out what’s not working about your current system.

Every family has a different system for recycling.  This is partially because every city’s recycling rules are different.

If you live in an area where you have to sort your recycling, take some time to set up a few bins in a convenient location to sort stuff before it gets taken out to the curb.  This could be in your kitchen or garage, wherever it’s easiest for you to toss stuff into the appropriate bins.

In many places single stream recycling is now the norm, meaning you can put all of your recycling together in one bin without worrying about sorting paper, plastics, and glass separately.

If your recycling is single stream, like ours is, then half the work is being done for you all ready, you just need to find a way to make your recycling bin just as convenient, or even more convenient than your trash can, so you’re less likely to throw stuff into the trash that could be recycled.

In our home, we’ve always had our garbage under our kitchen sink.  At our old house, we didn’t have a good system set up for recycling.  We had a garbage can in our garage just off the kitchen that we would throw our recycling in, but we would often get lazy and pile recyclables on the corner of the counter that was closest to the garage until we had a chance to throw them into the can.

As you can imagine, the piled up recycling on the kitchen counter was not very aesthetically pleasing and contributed to an overall messy and cluttered look in the kitchen.

2. Set up a system that works for your life

Once you have figured out what’s not working for you with your current system, you can make a plan and set up a system to make recycling easy and convenient for you and your family.

After realizing how annoying our recycling system was, one day I got a little wiser and decided we needed a new recycling system.  I knew it needed to be just as convenient as our trash can, so I decided it needed to go under the sink, just like the trash.

I had already begun to switch over to using more green and homemade cleaning products, so I didn’t need so much storage space for all different types of cleaners under my kitchen sink.

I cleared a space under the sink, and used a plastic filing box we had that really wasn’t being used for anything else, stuck it under there, and viola! Easy access recycling.

When we moved in to our current home, I set the recycling bin under the sink right away, and it’s been a great system for us for the two years we’ve lived here.

3. Identify other problem areas

Do you have trouble with junk mail piling up because you bring it in the house and then forget to recycle it, so it gets put in a pile of things to look at later? (I know all about those!)

Or do you throw away toilet paper rolls and other recyclable items in the bathroom because you’re too lazy to take it out to the main recycling bin? (Yep, I’m guilty of that!)

Or do you throw paper into the trash in your office because you don’t have a good place to set aside recyclable paper until you can take it out to the recycling bin?

Think about other areas of your home in which you use recyclable items that would benefit from having their own recycle bin.

Photo by UofSLibrary

4. Set up recycling bins around the house.

Then, take action and set up an easy recycling system for these areas around your home, preferably using something you already have on hand.

I turned a package box into a recycling receptacle for papers in our office.  And it’s been on my list for too long to add a recycling can to the bathroom, so I finally found something in the garage over the weekend that would work and stuck it in the bathroom so we can quit throwing away toilet paper rolls!

5. Take the next recycling step

There are of course other items around our homes that are recyclable, but can’t go into the regular recycling system – plastic grocery bags and electronics come to my mind.  In some areas it might be magazines – my parents didn’t have magazine recycling in their regular recycling until just recently – or something else similar like that.

For these items, we need to take the extra step to actually take them to get recycled.  I have bag of plastic bags by my back door waiting to take to the store and throw into the plastic bag recycling bin.  I also know we have several old cell phones and electronic cords that need to be recycled and I need to look into the best way to do that in my town.

Make the effort to take care of some of those “other” recycling items this month, instead of letting them pile up in a “waiting to be recycled” pile!

While making the effort to reduce and reuse should, of course, be our first course of action, it’s also important to make recycling easily fit into our everyday lives.

Do you have a recycling system that works for you?  How can you take the Simple Step to make recycling even easier around your home?



  1. Stacey says

    I have 2 different areas set up for recycling – one near the kitchen/garage and the other in the office, which helps with the back part of the house.

    Also, my kids love to “help” out in the kitchen while I am cooking so they are now my “recycling assistants” and they’ll take stuff out to the garage for me. Also they know where to put all the junk mail too.

  2. says

    This is such a timely post for me. Our recycling has started to dwindle because our recycling bins are in the garage, whereas our trash is on the main level (we live in a tri-level townhouse with the garage at ground level). It feels like a lot of extra effort (I know it really isn’t, but it feels that way!) to take the recycling down to the garage. Still trying to figure out the best solution…

  3. says

    I have recycling “stations” all around the house where needed! Actually, my plastic bags (mostly) have 2 on them from the store, so I place these around the house to continually clear surfaces and capture items that can be recycled (because I too forget my reusable bags sometimes!) Then I just take the whole bag out and throw it in the bin.

  4. Jacob says

    Hello, where did you buy the bins on this page? I am trying to start a new recycling program at shcool, and these are exactly what we want.

    • Emily @ Live Renewed says

      Hi Jacob,
      Sorry, they are not my bins, the picture is from Flickr. You can click on the link below the picture to see the original source. Good for you for setting up a recycling program at your school, and I hope you are able to find bins that will work!

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