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Help the Environment by Recycling: Kitchen Recycle Bins

Updated on July 5, 2013

How you can Reduce, Reuse and Recycle in the Kitchen

In most homes, the kitchen produces by far the most garbage of any room. Learn here how to help the environment by recycling and cut down the amount of kitchen garbage you produce (by reducing, reusing and recycling). It takes a little time, but once you have systems set up it's not hard to do.

For lots of information on planning your kitchen, visit Kitchen Layouts and Floorplans

Recycling in the Kitchen

Kitchen recycle bins are the basis of your recycling efforts. Most of the ones I see for sale are either too small to be useful at all, or they are all the same size when different materials need different sizes and types of bins. You might choose a different color bin for each material, or have them all the same color but marked clearly. You might also want to hide them in a cabinet with slots to add items, or install them in the basement or garage instead of the kitchen.

I find I need to have a pretty big bin for plastics, but small for metal and glass. That's more of a comment on food manufacturers moving from glass and metal over to plastic than much to do with me, although I eat very little canned food.

One very important category of "stuff" to recycle is food scraps. Composting in the kitchen sometimes gets a bad rap for being smelly, but it doesn't need to be. Use a container which doesn't absorb smells (stainless steel or other metal is good), with a tight-fitting lid, and empty it into your outdoor composter frequently. Worm composting is a great year-round solution, too, which can be done completely indoors.

A hole or chute in the counter which goes directly to the composting bucket (indoors or out) is great in theory but in practice it's hard to make it smell-proof, bug-proof, critter-proof and easily cleanable.

Recycling options differ depending on your location. What's available in your town or city? Check with your local government what can be recycled locally, and if pickup services exist. There will be rules as to what's acceptable, and in what condition (labels or not, cleanliness etc). Take this seriously - putting the wrong things in your bin doesn't just contaminate your load, but the truckload it's added to.

Prevention: REDUCE your garbage at the source

The first of the three R's is REDUCE for good reason - it's much better not to produce and use something in the first place, than to work out ways to reuse it or recycle it after the fact.

So, how to reduce what's coming into the kitchen?

  • Use reusable grocery bags, preferably biodegradable cloth rather than heavy plastic or man-made fabrics
  • Buy in bulk, using your own containers if possible
  • Start or join a food-buying co-operative and buy in BIG bulk
  • Grow your own food
  • Buy unprocessed foods (and compost the compostable scraps)
  • Store food in long-lived reusable containers (glass, real Tupperware, etc)
  • Go vegetarian, or at least reduce your meat consumption

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Re-Use Everything You Can

There are many ways to re-use stuff in the kitchen. If you don't know many, talk to your grandmother :-)

One basic idea is to replace disposables with re-usables.

Plastic Wrap: use long-lived food storage boxes (Tupperware etc), and glass containers to store food, elasticized plastic "shower-cap" type lids to cover containers (they can be washed and reused multiple times), waxed or greaseproof paper if you need to lay something directly on top of a food to keep out air.

Aluminum foil: see Plastic Wrap for food storage uses. Foil can be washed and re-used itself when you really must use it as in covering something in the oven (although consider using a lidded cooking container instead!)

Paper towels: use cloths, rags (especially re-used worn out clothing like t-shirts), newspapers. Rags and cloths can be washed with the laundry and used until they start to fall apart, then composted.

Disposable plates, cups, flatware etc: obviously, use regular dishes and flatware instead and wash them. Consider also re-using plates and glasses instead of washing them after every use. A plate which has only a few cookie crumbs or breadcrumbs on it can be used again for another snack. Put your empty juice or water mug in the fridge and use it again later. Color coding lets you identify different family members' cups.

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