Recycling–a Good Place to Start

If you don’t already recycle, please, please, please, start now! Do I need to tell you why? That would be for another post. This one is about how.

To get started, you first need to locate a recycling center or service. So either start asking around or get out the Yellow Pages. In my experience, I’ve found asking around to not yield the best results, but this could be due to the area where I live. If you live in an area where the environment is a big deal and ingrained in the local consciousness, asking will likely yield better results because you can also get opinions on the best service available. Otherwise, you’ll have to check the phone/business directory, and you’re more likely to have to drive to another town. But our planet is worth it, so don’t be dissuaded if it takes a little extra effort. Our planet NEEDS us to go that extra mile!

  • Some places have recycling services that will pick it up at your door on a regular basis, just like ordinary trash pickup. Sometimes your city sanitation department will do it, but in some cases it’s a separate service provided by a private company for a small monthly fee.
  • Some areas don’t provide pickup service, but do have a recycling center where you can drop it off. Sometimes it’s free; sometimes there’s a fee. Unfortunately, many cities have closed their recycling centers due to budget cuts and lack of interest by the local government, so finding the nearest one can be a small challenge, and you should be prepared to do a little driving when it’s time to drop it off.
    • If dropping it off is a problem–for instance, you can’t haul it in your vehicle for some reason (or you don’t have a vehicle), perhaps you could gather other interested people–hopefully including someone who has a truck. If more than one person in the group has a truck, maybe they could rotate the duty. Or you could pitch in together to hire someone to haul all your recycling for you on a regular basis. Start your own recycling service, even if it’s for a small group of subscribers and not for profit. In fact, a group effort will be better for the environment because you’ll only have one vehicle driving around collecting and dropping off instead of everyone doing their own.  There are a lot of options. Get some people together and figure out the best solution for your group.

When you’ve located your recycling center or service, you’ll have some questions. Some of those questions are obvious, like where, when, and how much will it cost. A few questions that might not be quite so obvious, especially if you’re new to recycling, are:

  • What materials are accepted? For example, some recycling places only take metals. Some don’t accept glass. Some accept only certain kinds of plastics. Some will take anything except hazardous materials (like batteries and electronics). Some will take anything that is recyclable. You need to know.
  • Does it have to be sorted? Although we once subscribed to a service that didn’t require sorting, most recycling centers won’t accept anything that isn’t sorted and bagged. Find out what the specific requirements are at your center.
  • What are the bagging requirements, if any? Size? Strength? I have seen systems that used different colors of bags for different materials–one color for paper, another color for plastic, etc.
  • Do they have or provide bins for you to store the stuff in until it’s hauled off? Most pickup services do, but only some recycling centers do and usually charge a fee for their use. Ask. If they provide bins, it will make things easier for you.

Okay, you’ve located your center, arranged for your service or gotten your group together (unless you’re going solo), and the transporting figured out. Now you need to set up your home system, which will depend almost entirely on the requirements of your recycling center. You’ll need an in-the-house part and an out-of-the-house part.

  • In the house:
    • For the service we subscribed to which didn’t require sorting, we simply set up two trash cans–one for recyclables and one for non-recyclables. Very easy. Out by the curb we had two bins, and our two services knew which bin was which–because one said “Recycling” on the side 😉 .
    • If they require sorting, you’re going to need a bit more complicated system and more space, because basically, you’re going to have to have a different trash container for each type of material–one for plastics, one for paper, etc. Before you start panicking over the space issue, know that there are stackable systems you can buy which use no more floor space than a single trash container. You can also put them outside the back door instead of in the house, but that system is in danger of not being used as much. I’ve found most people don’t want to take those few extra steps and fan the door open/shut, especially while they’re cooking. (And I’m not judging. The reason I know is that I’m one of those people!) But if that’s your only option, then set it up and discipline yourself. Remind yourself that your planet is counting on you!
  • Out-of-the-house:
    • You’re going to want an outside container to collect it all in until it’s hauled off, just like with your other trash. You can always purchase additional trash cans or bins. But if you don’t want to spend that much money–not that it’s a lot, but if it’s more than you can or want to spare–here’s an inexpensive idea: if you’re handy with a hammer and even just a tad creative: Pick up 4-6 wood pallets. You’ll need at least 4 for the sides, 5 if you want a floor in it, 6 if you want a floor and a lid. Nail or screw them together to form a box that you can drop your recycling bags into until they’re hauled off. Now it will be perfectly functional if that’s all you do. But if you want to make it more attractive:
      • Paint it. You could paint it all one color, but if you’re creative, paint a simple mural on the sides–flowers, grass, clouds, birds, butterflies. You don’t have to be a great artist, and it doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. A folk art style would be delightful and easy to do. Or an abstract design with geometric shapes, or non-shapes.
      • Or you could paint a message or motto on it.
      • Or the best idea yet, especially for summer: turn it into a vertical garden.
      • Or use a combination of these ideas.
      • Or come up with your own.

So, there you are. You’re ready to go. I’m proud of you. Mother Earth thanks you.

Happy recycling!


Find more ways you can help the environment under Empowerment How-Tos on the main menu at the top of the page.

Follow Color Us Empowered on Twitter, @UsEmpowered and on Facebook, where I share the best articles, videos, information, and news that I can find about the environment/climate change, animals/animal rights, groups, activists, and events—including some great vegan recipes/news and other things that might interest you.