In many countries, the government or local municipalities have set up a formal recycling system, where each household gets different containers in which to put food waste, paper, glass, plastic and tin. This is, however, not standard practice in all countries. Therefore, householders are encouraged to implement their own waste removal and recycling systems, so that they are able to have a positive role in the preservation of their local environment.
The first step to creating an effective recycling system in the home is to become educated regarding your local resources and the legal requirements for recycling. Some communities may accept mixed items (glass, paper and plastic in one container), which they will then separate, while others have no such system in place, in which case you will need to separate the items yourself. Some municipalities will also not accept certain items, such as milk cartons, as they have foil lining. Then you will need to find out if your local government has specific containers in which recyclable items should go. They may provide you with special bins, or you might need to get plastic bins yourself. You should have one for plastic, paper, tin, food and ‘other’ (which will likely contain items such as batteries). If possible, get a food container that has a removable inner, so that it is easy to clean and sterilize on a regular basis.
Assign a special place (or more than one place) in your home as the recycling corner. Mark each bin clearly, so that everyone in the house knows what goes where. If you have small children, you may want to paste appropriate pictures from magazines (of soda cans, for example) on a card and stick it on the bin, so that they are able to tell, at a glance, what that bin is for. If you have different sized containers, ensure that the bin for paper is the largest. The kitchen is probably the best place for such items. But, if there is limited space or they look unattractive, consider putting them on a balcony or porch. Be careful that they are not in an area where they are at risk of being stolen.
Rinse your containers on a regular basis to prevent any unpleasant smells (from leaked sodas, traces of meat or blood on plastic packaging, and so on). Consider spraying in and around them with an antiseptic and a bug repellent, so that they do not attract cockroaches and flies.
Food peels, cores, pips and so on should be kept in a sealed container for your compost heap, if applicable. Never put these foodstuffs into a recycling container.
Some useful recycling tips are:
- Crush your cans, boxes and plastic packaging so that more fits into your drums, rather than having it overflow more regularly.
- Before discarding anything, try to think of another possible use for it. For example, toilet roll inners and cleaned tin cans can be fabulous craft items for children and surrounding schools.
- Consider donating items such as old furniture, crockery and cutlery before simply throwing them out.
- Set goals for yourself on how much you want to recycle (in terms of volume) and set achievable time frames. This is both motivating and rewarding.
- Sign up for local recycling newsletters so that you are aware of any changes, needs or limitations in the industry and environment.