How to Start Recycling at Home: 5 Steps to Success

Follow this simple five-step method to start a home recycling system.

By Maryruth Belsey-Priebe

Fact checked by Sander Tamm

Recycling at Home: 5 Steps
Recycling at Home: 5 Steps / Sander Tamm / Ecolife

The USA goes through 292.4 million tons of waste annually, while recycling rates hover as low as 32.1%. Where does all that non-recycled waste go? Landfills. Or, even worse, the waste is exported to developing countries. Help put an end to this practice by starting a home recycling program at home and diverting as much of your waste to recycling centers as possible. 

Follow these steps to start recycling at home:

  1. Measure your space
  2. Pick a recycling bin
  3. Collect & sort
  4. Recycle curbside
  5. Find a recycling center

Measure your space

Take out a tape measure and determine exactly how much space you have for your recycling stations. Don’t leave this step out because you don’t want to bring home bins that don’t fit!

To decide the ideal location, you should ask yourself what’s more important – a home recycling system that’s easy to access or one that’s hidden away from public view? The answer will help you determine the best location. Whether you want to hide it in a closet or not, for convenience, we recommend having several recycling stations located where you produce the most waste.

For instance, consider a recycling station in these rooms:

  • Kitchen: This is likely where you’ll produce the most garbage from food prep – cans, cardboard, plastics, glass bottles, soda cans, etc. Here you’ll likely want an extra bin for organic waste.
  • Home office: For collection of office paper, newspaper, and so on.
  • Garage: Where you’ll have old paints, vehicle fuels, cleaning products, and yard waste. The garage is also a good place for hiding your recycling station if you want it out of the way.
  • Bathrooms: For collecting containers from personal care products and paper waste.

Pick a recycling bin

There are many models from which to choose – some more stylish and others more functional. In the process, you may want to change your trash bin as well – the smaller, the better to encourage more recycling. Once you know how you’ll have to sort your recyclables, you can calculate how many bins you’ll need.

Here are some great recycling bin models you could try: (make your recycling bins more eco-friendly by choosing those made from recycled plastic!

Collect & sort

Knowing what you can recycle will help you set up an effective home recycling program for you and your family – after all, there’s no use separating film plastics from the rest of your trash if there are no recyclers willing to take it from you! We’ve got recycling guides for every type of trash problem.

Various recycling programs require that you sort your waste in particular ways. Various colors of glass, for instance, often have to be separated. On the other hand, some municipal recycling programs let you throw paper and apple cores in with dirty diapers and pizza boxes! 

Recycle curbside

If you’re lucky enough to have access to a curbside program, then all you need to do is set up the bins at their designated areas and wait for pick-up day. Check with your local municipality or waste management company to find out what is accepted in the program available to you.

In most curbside recycling programs, some items, such as electronics or hazardous materials, are not accepted, so put those aside until you’re able to find a recycling center that will accept the rest of your recyclables.

Find a recycling center

Now, you’ll have to locate a recycling center catered to your needs. Depending on what other recyclable items you have left, the center could be anything from a hazardous waste center to a paper-only recycler. Some recycling centers are free, while others may charge a fee for accepting your items, so do your research beforehand and find out what’s available in your area.