Tips for Reducing Your Waste (Part II): Recycling & Repurposing

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This is Part 2 of the Tips for Reducing Your Waste series! Don't forget to check out Part 1!

Part 2: Recycling/Repurposing 

Before I talk about the main topic (Recycling), I want to cover repurposing.
I mentioned in the first post of this series to look for reusable packages when you're shopping.  Reusing and repurposing items is not only a way to keep them out of landfills but also a way to save money on storage containers, craft supplies, and other materials you may have to buy.

A few of my favorite repurpose-able items are:

  • Paper bags: Perfect for wrapping paper (if you want to, have your kids color on it first or decorate with cute designs cut out from scrapbook paper)
  • Glass jars: Great for storing change, hair supplies (bobbie pins & ties), and leftovers (instead of plastic tupperware)
  • Shoe boxes and the like: Storing too-small baby socks (and hats and other accessories), pictures, art supplies
  • Lunch meat containers: Add to your tupperware stash or the kid's kitchen set
  • Oatmeal containers: Honestly there was a point where these where one of Evelyn's favorite toys. She would stuff as many toys in it as possible, dump them out, and repeat! Hey, whatever works..

If you can't find another use for it. The best next way to reduce your waste is by recycling.

I was initially intimidated by recycling because in the city we lived in at the time we had to clean, sort, and drop off all our recyclables.  It felt like half of our kitchen floor space was taken over by multiple recycling bins!

Even back then though, it was something I was committed to doing and it wasn't long before the scary world of recycling was an everyday habit that I barely noticed.

If you are fortunate enough to live somewhere that the city provides a recycling service like trash service this will be even easier for you!  We aren't required to separate our plastics/metals/glass anymore, but we still have to drop it off to the recycling center ourselves each week.  It's not a huge deal, but it does take slightly more effort than if I could just drag an extra bin to the curb.

Each state (and even city) has a different method of recycling so research what your options are.  You'll need to know:

  • Do they have a bin or can you can have picked up at your house?  If not, where is the drop off location?
  • Do you have to sort different materials?  Which ones?
  • Do they only accept certain materials?  What materials are NOT accepted?

Once you've found the answers to these questions, here are some simple, non-intimidating ways to start your recycling efforts:

Easy Ways to Start Recycling

1. Set up a convenient system

It may be as simple as setting a box in your kitchen or ordering your pick-up bin or can from the city!

In our garage, we have a row of garbage bins for our recycling.  Like I said, we recycle a lot.  And we live in a house with seven people.  You may only need one bin or a box for your family initially (The black containers were $10-20 at Target and Walmart I believe.) 

During the day, I usually pile recyclables on the counter or by the garage door until I have a minute to run out and throw them all in the bin at once.  In the basement, I have a second trash can for recyclables.  I either bring it up when it's full or when I am taking my load to the recycling center each week.  This is a convenient and easy option if you don't have a garage near your kitchen or time to run outside each time you have a piece of paper :)

2. Start with paper products.  Paper products are not only the easiest to recycle (because they don't require rinsing) but they are also the largest form of waste.

Use your designated trash can or box for junk mail, cereal boxes, cardboard egg cartons, paper towel and toilet paper holders, old receipts, church bulletins, old bills and any other products made from paper or cardboard (I recommend shredding any bills/junk mail).

3. Beverage containers.  Here in Michigan, cans and bottles have a deposit on them (meaning you pay more initially then have to return them to the store into a machine and receive $0.10 for each one).  It's not my favorite way to encourage recycling because I hate picking through a sticky bag of old pop cans one by one just for $5 but it is what it is.

If your state doesn't have a deposit system, have a place to throw pop bottles, beer cans, milk jugs, juice containers, water bottles, and any other beverage containers in (if your city doesn't require you separate materials, it can be the same place you throw your paper products!) You will want to rinse these items beforehand.

4. Everything else.  When I started noticing how much less trash we we're creating by just throwing beverage containers and paper into separate bins, I started to question everything before it went into the trash. Could this be recycled?

You'd be amazed at how much CAN be. This website has a great list, include items such as: tin cans, aluminum foil, broken glass, yogurt containers, empty shampoo bottles... 

Many recycling center even accept everything from old TV set, appliances, batteries to bricks and engine oil.

Don't let recycling be overwhelming.

Even just starting with one material like paper makes a huge impact in how much waste you produce AND how much landfill space is saved.

What are your favorite repurposed items at home? If you recycle, what motivated you to start?

Be sure to check back for Tips for Reducing Your Waste Part 3: Donating!

Thank you following along on our journey to simplicity. Please be sure to learn about our family, like our page on Facebook, and visit the right column to subscribe to our posts :)

"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."

Philippians 4:12

God Bless!