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Sunday, January 27, 2008  

Recycling Day

Ever since Trash discovered that our city recycles not only aluminum cans, newspapers, and glass bottles, but also plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, and all kinds of paper, our house has been in utter turmoil. Turmoil!

Okay, maybe I exaggerate a bit. But only a bit. Recycling day is every other Monday. We collect the recycling in paper grocery bags at the top of the basement stairs throughout that period, and every other Sunday night we separate everything and put it out on the curb (or rather on the snow bank, this time of year) in and around a green plastic bin. Yes, I said "in and around." The problem with the bin is that it really only holds two grocery bags, so anything beyond that is going to have to go in a bag next to it. Thus one of the most important parts of recycling is figuring out which of the three or four bags that week is least likely to blow over and end up scattering its contents all down our street. We're pretty good at that -- most weeks. And the other weeks, we're also good at pretending we had nothing to do with it.

Still, I hate that flimsy green bin. The nicest thing I can say about it is that the lid always falls off, and is quite handy for fanning the flames when we have a fire going in the chiminea.

And this was before we more or less doubled our recycling output. It was already problematic in terms of how much room those grocery bags were taking up at the top of the stairs. There used to be the spot for the cats' food dishes next to them, but the recycling ended up squeezing them up into the kitchen. Who ever heard of eating in the kitchen?

There are other minor annoyances. The kitchen trash takes longer to fill up, which means it sometimes starts to smell before it's full. Also, our stock of paper grocery bags started getting depleted at an alarming rate, resulting in wasted space in the form of the empty three-inch gap between our refrigerator and the cabinet. And I can't even tell you how many times lately I've tried to squeeze past the recycling with a hamper full of laundry and ended up tipping over the empty soda cans into a clattering cascade down the stairs which I then had to pick up, and then go put M. Small back to sleep. Okay, actually I can tell you how many times: eight.

Trash has also gotten frustrated with the situation. And in hindsight, maybe initiating the recycling of cardboard boxes that close to the holidays wasn't the best move with a multiple-gift-receiving three-year-old in the house. I've told her that I'm still figuring out the new system to accommodate our new recycling regimen, but since I also said that the one bedrock principle of any system will involve letting the recycling accumulate in the house for two weeks, she seemed doubtful.

As far as our bi-weekly waste output, I'm not saying that we could fit all of our garbage into our glove compartment like Ed Begley, Jr., but for a while there, the extra space left over in the trash bin each week was being more than made up for by the amount of recyclable materials blowing down our street on Monday mornings.

I did come up with one idea, which was for her to call and see if she could request more recycling bins from the city. When Trash explained the situation, the operator was even like, "Oh, yeah, you really can't do that with only one bin." Thanks for the flash..

It took a couple of weeks, but when we got home on Friday we saw that our flimsy old recycling bin with the loose lid was gone, and our front stoop was stacked high with sturdy, roomy plastic bins, complete with solid lids that are attached to the main unit by a short length of rope. I'm still working on a final system, but having a bin on the back deck devoted to broken-down cardboard boxes seems to have made our stairs a lot more passable. Earlier today, in preparation for the recycling pickup tomorrow, Trash filled the second bin outside with cans and bottles, and the third with newsprint and other paper. So now there's nothing blowing down our street but a frigid breeze. And Trash came up with the idea of keeping one of the collection bins inside during the week, where before we had nothing but paper bags.

So far, it's a good system. There may be a few wrinkles to work out, but since the most major one is not having anything to fan the chiminea with, I think we'll be able to figure it out.

posted by M. Giant 6:34 PM 13 comments


Get a can crusher. It won't handle the cat food cans, but a good sturdy one will take care of pop-cans with no problem, and will reduce, if not completely crunch down, things like soup cans.

Good luck.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 27, 2008 at 9:28 PM  

If you really want to be impressed by how little you throw away, get one of the city's composting buckets and set yourself up a pile, back by the garage. Your garbage will be less stinky if the coffee grounds and veggie peels aren't in it.

When I lived out east, we had a compost heap, plus the local government did the smartest thing I've ever seen city government do: they made it free to recycle, and charged 75 cents per bag to dump trash.

By Blogger Febrifuge, at January 28, 2008 at 6:09 PM  

We don't have to separate material, which is great, but we're supposed to stuff everything into flimsy plastic (!) bags, which are far insufficient for the amount of cardboard, newspaper, and waste paper/catalogs I collect over a two-week period.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 28, 2008 at 7:44 PM  

Our city made recycling free and gives us two bins to start (but no lids). We recycle EVERYTHING which drives my husband crazy. Oh well. Better a crazy husband than we feed so much garbage to the nasty incinerator!

By Blogger Bunny, at January 29, 2008 at 5:15 AM  

We joined our county's recycling program last year. They provide a sturdy blue bin with lid & wheels (yay!) for paper/cardboard and gigantic, heavy duty, blue plastic bags for glass/metal/plastic. At first, we had problems filling them up, but the more you do it, the more things you find.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 29, 2008 at 8:47 AM  

Oh my gosh, I never thought to call the City of Minneapolis to request more bins. You are a genius.

My parents live in Shoreview, and they don't have to divide their recyclables. I wish more cities would get on board with that plan, because so many more people would recycle if it was less annoying.

By Blogger Carrie Ann, at January 29, 2008 at 9:18 AM  

Long time reader, first time commenter... :)

A friend of mine (who recycles everything one possibly can) takes care of her kitchen garbage by worm composting, which sounds a little weird, but is a nifty option if you'd like an alternative to a traditional compost heap for food scraps. You can apparently use recyclable paper for their bedding, too. You can make the container for them live in, or buy them a chalet!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 29, 2008 at 9:24 AM  

For us apartment/condo dwellers I've found that this system works pretty great:


A softer, more yielding version of traditional recycling containers, our set of four Recycling Bags can function as hold alls for recyclables as well as reusable shopping bags and gardening totes. Made of industrial-strength tarpaulin a heavy double-warp fabric that is plastic-coated the bags are waterproof and can be quickly washed out in the sink or outside with a garden hose. Each bag is color coded to provide easy visual cues when separating cans from bottles from papers. A fourth bag can function as a compost holder. Velcro tabs enable the bags to be ganged together in a row; handles make for easy carrying.

Yes, they take up some space but I don't think that can be avoided if you recycle. It's got to go somewhere right? And the handles make it easy to haul them down to the trash/recycling area.

Also @ a cost of $22 this has got to be the only affordable thing from Design Within Reach and most likely the only thing I'll ever be able to buy from them.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 29, 2008 at 10:16 AM  

wow, you make me feel lucky to live in Seattle. Not only do we recycle everything, but it's free, we don't have to sort it (except separating out glass), and they give us (free) 60 gallon recycle bins with attached, hinged lids. They also give us a small container for glass. I feel like I'm bragging here. About recycling. Which is weird. Really I am just feeling grateful for something I did not know I should be grateful for.

I'm glad the city gave you a bigger container...

By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 29, 2008 at 12:57 PM  

We live in Wyoming,Michigan and we have the option of paying extra to our private carriers for recycle-We used to have community recycle bins we could drop off at but they decided to end that practice. Anyway we have a small bin we use inside-It's actually two laundry net bags hung on a metal rack that we put our recycle in inside-sorted partially, plastic and glass in one, Cardboard and Paper in the other. Then when that fills up we transfer them to three large wheeled plastic trash cans we bought ourselves and keep outside our back door separating the paper and cardboard and the glass and plastic in one bin.Recycling here only takes plastic w/one through seven, food containers only and metal and glass food containers only. Then twice a month we wheel all three containers up to the curb for pickup. We've been doing some version of this for over 10 years,since they shut down the free community recycle drop off centers. Its become a habit and we're glad to limit some of the waste in the landfills but as you can guess because it costs extra for pickup and storage that most people around here don't do it. If communities are really serious about recycling they need to make it cheaper and easier. I guess everyone has an opinion and a recycling story! Good luck with yours.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 29, 2008 at 1:57 PM  

Woah, mega comments! Who knew recycling was such an international hot-button issue?

My only helpful hint is that when I noticed my garbage starting to smell - due to the two-week pickup schedule - I started keeping my raw meat wrappers in a bag in the freezer till garbage day. Those were the really stinky culprits for me.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 29, 2008 at 4:01 PM  

What Jenonymous said. Here in Toronto, we have green bins for compostables (food scraps including meat, kitty litter, diapers, and female "products"), plus blue boxes for paper/plastic/cans/glass, plus regular garbage pickup. Green bins are colected every week, and the blue boxe and garbage pickups are picked up on alternate weeks.

But some things, like fish and meat wrapping, get stashed in the freezer and taken out with regular garbage every two weeks. And if the green bin catcher bag gets full before garbage day, it also goes in the freezer (or the garage in winter).

God, I love this system.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 30, 2008 at 8:42 AM  

I live in a Chicago suburb where we don't have to separate our recycling at all, and we get 60-gallon cans with lids--bigger than the trash cans!

To deal with the resulting stank in the trash can, we put a few sheets of newspaper in the bottom of the can every few weeks--it helps absorb odor. When the trash gets stinky again, it's time to change the paper.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at February 3, 2008 at 2:23 PM  

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