Setting up a recycling system | Anyclean

updated: 23/10/2023


So you want to live so that you’re easier on the environment? Well, that’s a good start. Often, the easiest part is recycling and cutting down on the amount you contribute to the waste stream and the landfills.

First of all, you’ll need to set up your system. In most areas, you are able to recycle paper, cans and some plastics. If you’re not sure, check with your local council as to what they’ve got facilities for recycling, and what they haven’t.

Next, you’ll need to get the equipment for a recycling system. If your council is nice, they’ll provide you with recycling bins as a part of their waste-and-recycling collection system. If they aren’t, you’ll have to provide your own. The most eco-friendly way is cardboard boxes (which are themselves recyclable) or else using plastic bins. You may be able to pick up some cheap second hand bins if you don’t want to buy new ones.

Now, I can’t tell you exactly where to put your bins – or how many you should have, as I can’t see your kitchen (or your laundry or your home office). And I don’t know if you have to protect food scraps from cats or sharp tins from small fiddly fingers. And I don’t know what pets you’ve got. But I’ll tell you one system that works for me, and you can adapt this to suit yourself.

* GOOS (Good On One Side) paper. This is stored flat in a cardboard box and is used for any pen and paper work that isn’t going public – rough drafts, shopping lists, telephone messages and kids’ drawings. This box lives in the home office.

* Other paper and cardboard. I have a log fire, so I keep some of these as fire starters, plus other newspapers, etc. for spreading out under paintings, lining guinea pig cages, scrunching up and stuffing inside wet Wellingtons to dry them, etc. What doesn’t get burned or into the guinea pig cage will be recycled. Lives in a stackable plastic crate near the fireplace.

* The Bag of Bags. If you have plastic shopping bags, you’ll find multiple uses for them, or else they’ll need to be recycled. Have a Bag of Bags hanging up where you can shove clean plastic bags until use or recycling. A proper Bag of Bags is a long tube of cloth with a drawstring closure at each end. Or you can just use one of the more presentable shopping bags. Lives in the laundry.

* Guinea pig food bowl. For apple cores, ends of carrots, outer leaves of cabbage, etc. Lives under the kitchen sink.

* Doggy bowl. For half-eaten toast, meat scraps, dairy scraps, trimmed-off fat and leftovers that aren’t worth saving for human consumption. Lives under the kitchen sink.

* Compost bowl. A retired coloured aluminium serving bowl from the 1960s for any other organic waste generated in the kitchen (eggshells, orange peel, nutshells, coffee grounds, tea bags, plum stones). Lives on the top of the kitchen bench to remind me to empty it frequently, as well as being handy.

* Compost heap. The place where the compost bowl gets emptied. Is also the final resting place (at least until it’s time to dig the garden) for weeds, lawn clippings, hair clippings, old straw, paper and muck from the guinea pig cage, the contents of the vacuum cleaner bag, fallen leaves and ashes (not coal ash – wood ash only). Lives in the garden, of course, and is made from a few straw bales shoved together.

* Other recycling. This is a council provided bin for old bottles, jars and tins. If your council doesn’t provide one, then get one or two bins (or even three) and have regular recycling trips when they get full. If you have to sort things, then sort them as you toss them into the bins. Name the bins. Lives by the back door (the tins are, of course, washed thoroughly first to stop cats, dogs and vermin getting in and hurting themselves trying to get scraps out of tins).

About the author 

Nick Vassilev

Nick blogs about cleaning. He is a cleaning expert with more than 25 years of experience. He is also an NCCA-certified carpet cleaner. Founder and CEO of Anyclean.