Residential household recycling and its ongoing challenges

Here’s a question:

At what point does household recycling affect the family dynamic in a negative way?

I only ask because of the four people residing in this house, I’m probably the most conscientious of us all. The rest do their part, as we now have a drawer under the kitchen sink to accommodate three out of four containers to collect our daily waste.

This was not always the case. Prior to our renovation we had a very tiny kitchen with very little space. Recycling was a bit of a complicated activity where bags would hang off of doorknobs during colder months in order to avoid taking a trip outside every time someone had an item for the blue bin. The bags served their purpose but irritated no one but me. I mean, who likes to look at random plastic bags full of recyclable containers and newspapers hanging about the house?

Not me. That’s who.

But we persevered and I emptied the bag regularly and during the warmer months I walked to the side door and down the steps to deposit the egg carton (or glass jar or juice container) into the conveniently situated blue recycling bin. I took a lot of walks. Does this count as exercise?  🙂

Today in the new, bigger kitchen, we store a regular sized garbage container, the city compost bin and the backyard compost bin directly under the sink.  For the most part, people know what goes in which bin. Our city bin mostly contains grease, bones, or bits of meat, the organic matter (veg, peels, fruit, egg shells, coffee grounds) go into the backyard compost.

Kitchen Compost Drawer

The garbage has the usual suspects in it, like empty packages of things. In this city they now allow plastic bags like the type from a loaf of bread, or frozen peas, to be recycled with the blue bin. Theoretically this should reduce the garbage significantly, if only people would remember this.

The other thing our city allows in the green bin is used kleenex and paper towels, napkins, even sanitary items. So the garbage in the bathroom can go into the green compost bin, as well. At least that’s how I understand it.

But here’s the thing.

At what point does incorrect recycling, or dividing recyclable materials, become a responsibility of one person to nag remind the rest of the family into doing it correctly?

This is currently one of my biggest challenges. I take recycling seriously, but constantly policing the rest of the household is exhausting, and frustrating.

Don’t get me wrong. The family is trained, and understands the recycling rules. I would say we manage to do it right about 85% of the time. But there are times when I just don’t want to say it again, repeat myself, remind someone that the tissue goes in the green kitchen bin or the bathroom receptacle, not the garbage. That the empty cardboard soap container is a blue bin item, not a bathroom item.

They’re not the only ones. I too have on occasion tossed a cardboard toilet paper roll into the bathroom garbage, thinking it’s practically the same material as the tissue paper…

I support and believe in doing our part to help live an ecologically responsible lifestyle. But until everyone is on the exact same page, it can (and does) pose challenges that seem to end up as just another thing I gotta stay on top of.

Perhaps this is a situation of ‘pick your battles’. A screw lid of an orange juice container in the garbage instead of the blue bin is probably not going to make a huge impact in the grand scheme of things. As long as we try to remember next time, the lid is plastic and goes in the blue bin…

We’re trying, we’re doing a good (enough) job, but as these things go, it’s a work in progress.

How is it working in your family? Do all members respect the household waste rules? Is it working? How are the problem areas solved?

Please do share your perspectives, I’d be interested in knowing the answers to some of those questions.


5 Replies to “Residential household recycling and its ongoing challenges”

  1. I hate the compost. I know intellectually that food waste causes an enormous amount of green house gas emissions and isn’t going to break down in the garbage piles or pits. But it’s gross. It’s bad enough dealing with it inside, but outside when it gets all maggoty and rotten as bits always get stuck to the inside of the green bin and “someone” refuses to line it with a bag or wash it out regularly, its flat out revolting. My rule is this: someone that is not me, takes it out every day in the summer or I will tie it up into plastic bags and throw it in the garbage. I’m a terrible person!


    1. I understand the reaction. I use plastic bags and a lid that keeps falling off and if I don’t take it out daily (which to me is a lot of bags in a bin that is supposed to be about food) it starts to smell and gets maggoty. That’s what I mean though with this post. At what point does this whole recycling matter become just another task for ME to do? Not to mention the ongoing challenges with the wildlife around here…just two days ago I almost had a heart attack when I opened the lid to the black bin and a racoon jumped out. And the green bin has a crack in it from probably the same racoon…

      Thanks for responding V! I enjoy hearing from you. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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