5 Tips for Recycling in a Small Space

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As recycling becomes a norm in our day-to-day lives, it takes up a lot of our energy to not become complacent and revert to old habits! In a recent DEFRA report, levels of waste recycled in 2015 have dropped for the first time since 2011. One of the obstacles to an ideal waste management system is the amount of space that is available to us. A cramped and small space makes recycling an unsightly chore that we’d rather skip. Saving ourselves the trouble of finding some space for glass, paper and plastic waste, and of emptying it, is much more appealing. However, if you are determined to keep those habits alive in your new, cramped flat or create a recycling centre in the limited space at work, kudos to you!

The first step is to start a conversation with your family, colleagues and housemates. Recycling might be awkward to fit in a cramped space. Informing those you share it with of your initiative and explaining the dos and don’ts will ensure your efforts will not go to waste. Contaminated items are thrown away at recycling facilities. Any liquids dripping from an unwashed bottle or can could contaminate the rest of your recyclable waste. Here are a few points to go over with your family and colleagues to start the conversation:

  • Why we recycle: reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills and reusing materials harmful to our environment.
  • What can be recycled: paper, cardboard, tins and cans, bottles, foil and glass.
  • What we think is recyclable but isn’t: tissue rolls, plastic wrap, grease-stained pizza boxes, coffee cups and contaminated materials.
  • If in doubt: check the council’s checklist of what can go in the bin. A list on the fridge door can be handy.

Squash and Flatten Everything

Squashed pile of colourful bottlesYour first obstacle in a small space is AIR! Make sure you squash all the air out. Tetra Pak products are notoriously easy to flatten out. Simply wash and dry the inside lining, put the plastic cap back on and place it in your recycling bin. Most councils now collect Tetra Pak products and send them to a facility dedicated to recycling these, because of the fine lining made of plastic and aluminium. Crush and squash tins and cans, same goes for milk and water bottles. The sound can be quite therapeutic! Stack paper as neatly as possible, and flatten cereal and washing powder boxes. Check whether the foil you buy is recyclable. If it stays flat and doesn’t crinkle back when flattened, it’s recyclable. Not much can be done when it comes to glass, except stacking one inside the other.

The Right Solution for Your Space

Shot of a small office with soft lightingChoose the right waste segregation solution for the space available. We think the best space-saving bin is a single container with colour-coded liners. If you want to place your bins at different locations, slim bins can use up awkward vertical space that would otherwise be lost. Make sure the solution mirrors your recycling wheelie bins so that you don’t need to sort through recyclables. For example, if your recyclables bin has two compartments for cardboard/paper and cans/glass, a three-compartment bin could be useful to segregate general waste, cardboard/paper and cans/glass.

Use Vertical and Furniture Space

Wall hooks with hand towelsIf you cannot afford to cramp up your floor space, consider storing your waste containers inside a cupboard or drawer. Pull-out bins are popular but might require space for the mechanism. Low-height bins in drawers can also do the trick. IKEA bags can make great recycling banks at home when hung on the wall. Flat when empty, sturdy and portable, they’re a good choice if the deep blue doesn’t clash with your décor! If your kitchen space does not allow you to do these, simply store your recyclables in another room. The best place would be near the entrance so you can empty your bins whenever you step out.

Reuse and Recycle Your Waste Containers

Pile of overturned cardboard boxesRe-purpose cardboard boxes into waste containers for your recyclables. Paper bags could do the trick as well. Make sure you wash and dry bottles and cans before putting them in. When you’re ready to throw the box away, it’s a one-way trip to the bin! Plastic bags can be re-purposed into bin liners, and little jars can be used as a desk bin. Get creative with your waste and make sure it’s lived to its full potential before going to the recycling plant.

Reduce the Amount of Packaging

Shot of market vegetablesAs always, the best solution is to treat the problem at the source! Reduce the amount of packaging you consume and store in a small space by making smarter choices in the supermarket. Oranges don’t need to be peeled then repackaged in plastic. Toilet and kitchen paper do not need to come with a non-recyclable roll! If you can, shop at your local market and bring your own reusable bags. Buy and carry eggs with your very own reusable carrier! A little mindfulness goes a long way. It’s the small decisions that have a big impact on the quality of our lives. Remember, you can vote for the ideals you believe in with your money.

There is no shortage of articles offering tips and tricks for recycling in a small space. However, some of your spatial restrictions can only over be resolved with tailored solutions. Experimenting is one way to find out what works for you. Anticipating your own behaviour can also bring some solutions. If you consistently forget to empty out the kitchen recycling bin, place your bin near the entrance, or simply dispose of your items directly into the communal bin. If you lack motivation, include others in your efforts, such as colleagues, house mates or family and friends. Sometimes, starting a conversation is all you need to plant a seed! Share your recycling tips and tricks with us through a comment below or tweet at us!

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