Friday, September 24, 2010

How I sort my Recycling & Trash

I recently did a post on the trash and recycling system in German. You got a chance to see how detailed it really is. Therefore I had to find a system that works for my home. Now naturally I could use a container for every variable for the recycling hof, but again there are many I do not need, and it would take my whole living room to have enough bins.

You will need to find the system that works best for you, but here are some ideas based on what I do. You could use these tips anywhere, just alter it to your specific needs.

First things first. Lets talk about container options. As you really have a variety of choices. You can always try to use up what you have in yoru home already or find a new purpose for an older object. 
1. Milk style crates, thin crates, these can be found at any hardware store, bauhaus. I saw them just the other day for around 8 euro a pop. Now that price seems high to me, but they do have their pros as well, they stack super nice and you could therefore have one tall stack in a corner. 
2. Bigger plastic tubs or crates. These will cost more anywhere from say around 10 with a lid at Ikea upwards of 20. 
3. They have standing garbage bag holders, these work really well for things that fit well in trash bags. They cost around 8 euro a piece.
4. You can even use cardboard boxes.
5. Recyclable bags
6. Plastic grocers or garbage bags
7. Or you can buy specialty recycling organizers, they come in all forms some color coded, some wood, other plastic, and the prices vary for 20 up. 

Or any combo of the above. I myself use a combination.

Creating a plan:
Start by looking at yoru local recycling system. Consider how things need to be broken down. Also consider the various bins at the recycling center. Obviously you will not need all of them, some you may only need occasionally, some you have so little it is not worth buying a special bin. 

As an example we will use mine. Go down the list and mark what you recycle the most versus the least. Also note if any of these items can be taken to local community bins. I happen to have one just across the way.

1. Clothing and shoes in good condition- not often, and drop off by house
2. Metal cans- often, bin by house
3. Glass- white, brown, and green- often, bin by house
4. Small electronics- not often
5. Wood- not often
6. Aluminum- - often
7. Styrofoam- not often
8. Metal- not often
9. Plastic bottles- - often
10. Plastic containers-  most common
11. Cardboard- often
12. Plastic under size a4- very often
13. Plastic over size a4- not often
14. Wine corks- never
15. Batteries- ocassionally
16. Drink cartons- often
17. Light bulbs- rarely

Looking at that list there are many items I may have once in a while, but do not need on a regular basis so I focus only on those areas. I also group the recycling for the easiest removal, therefore we do not have to sort it all at the recycling center. 

How I sort mine: 
Community centers:
By my house I have a small recycling center with bins which take all colors of glass, cans, as well as newspapers and advertisements. So I keep those separate. 

Since the glass and cans are easy to sort they go into one large oversized reusable heavy plastic shopping bag. Make sure that you rinse out and dry all containers first before placing it in your recycling to avoid any unwanted guests. 

The newspaper then goes in a bag by itself. I use a cloth reusable grocery bag. I also remove our name and address from anything. 

If I do have clothes to donate, I would just put them in a plastic grocery bag. 

This whole section gets taken out once a week, therefore it only requires a small little corner with a few bags. 

Recycling hof:
The items that I recycle with every visit are: aluminum, plastic bottles, plastic containers, cardboard, plastic wrapping under size a4, and drink cartons.

For the items that I only occasionally have I do not set up a system. I will toss them all together into one large plastic reusable bag to sort at the station. If it is small items such as batteries, I would put them in a baggie inside. 

I base my system around the items I recycle most. The 2 items I recycle the most quantity of are plastic wrapping and plastics containers. Both of these get one standing trash can holder, which generally gets filled. I make sure to wash any items that have food residues first. 

Since much of the aluminum packaging has small pieces, such as candy wrappers it gets its own bag. I use a standard grocery bag. 

For cardboard and paper packaging, I have one assembled box that all the small boxes go inside flattened. Any big boxes would just be folded flat against the wall behind. 

That leaves plastic bottles and drink cartons, both of which along with any strangling glass and metal cans, go into one oversized plastic bag since they are easily sorted. Also make sure these are rinsed so that you avoid that nasty old milk smell. 

So In my recycling area that leaves me with:
2 Standing garbage bags of plastic wrapping and containers
1 box for cardboard
1 normal grocery bag of aluminum (generally sits in the top of the cardboard box)
One oversized bag with plastic bottles and drink cartons
One oversized bag for cans and glass
And one small reusable bag for newspapers

Though it does sound quiet a bit labor intensive it has had a major payoff. Before always had a backlog of garbage. We still occasionally do, but it is not a continual problem. 


Just a quick bit on the remaining trash. 

All my trash has the packaging removed, washed and placed in recycling, so I am dealing with only the left over biodegradable, or the occasional items that are non recyclable. 

1. I sort what I call ew trash. This is things that stink, leak, go bump in the night. The stuff you want to ensure by no means doesn't make it into the trash. This gets priority.

2. I then have non ew trash, things like paper, crafting, odds and ends, scraps, ect that cannot go to the recycling center, but are nt in a time rush to get out as they are not going to harm anything. I fit these in along the side and top right before trash day. If they do not make it no biggie.

This has been a great help, especially on the weeks when we have a bit more trash, or I have not been the best at recycling. It ensures that we are never left with rotting old apples in the house.

A few more tips to reducing your trash:
1. Never bring your trash home, no no I do not mean dump it somewhere or throw it out the window, though way to many people do that here its very sad. I mean if you eat take out and then go to the gas station, utilize that trash can they have out front. Or throw your paper coffee cup out in the trash cans places throughout the city.
2. Throw out the trash from the car when you clean the car, dont bring it home. We keep a small bag in the car and empty it at the car wash every time we was the car. 
3. Most grocery stores offer in store bins for trash, so you don't have to bring it home. Many even have labeled recycling bins and counters to pack your groceries. This way you can eliminate a lot of the excess packaging. 
4. Reuse what you can, I keep all rubber bands and I rewash and reuse most glass jars with a lid, even some plastic ones with lids. Much cheaper then tupperware and great to have on hand when you find yourself in a pinch. I just run mine through the dishwasher and put a new label on the outside. 

The number one waste in our home is packaging, and 9 times out of 10, it is much much more then is practically needed for the items. 

Well if nothing else I hope you had a good laugh at our crazy garbage system. But I also hope it gave you some ideas. I am not a big environmentally friendly person, in all honesty I started because I had to, though I am happy to make my small difference in the world. And once you get a system in place it is really not all that bad. 

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