Recycling Revisited: How I learned to stop recycling

“Wow, your recycling takes up a lot of space.”

That passing comment from a house guest initially flattered me. I was very proud of my recycling center. Neat bins, neatly marked; paper, bottles, deposit, magazines. How flattering to have it noticed.

But then I got to thinking.

In the world of recycling, is big really better?

The real goal should be to eliminate it. Since that house guest’s comment, I have found some ways to completely eliminate quite a few of our bins. Here are some ways that we’ve cut back in my household that may be helpful for you.

Five Ways to Reduce your Recycling

1. Newspapers

There’s an app for that! The newspaper experience on an iPad just gets better and better. Better content, better interface. I never thought I could part with my Sunday newspaper habit but I have. If you don’t have an iPad, you can use your computer to catch up on the latest news or try listening to the radio or podcasts.

2. Magazines

Magazine apps are getting better all the time. Most major magazines are now available electronically, and the reader experience continues to get better with improved content. Do you get a lot of shopping catalogs? There is an app for that too. I like Catalog Spree (available for free in the Apple Store) but there are many other choices as well. There is a free online service called Catalog Choice you can use to block unsolicited junk mail. This bin is shrinking fast.

3. Bottles

Ok, so there isn’t an app for bottling wine, but there is a box! Yes, my wife and I enjoy our nightly glass of wine, and it is truly amazing how the empty wine bottles add up. We used to create quite the scene at the recycling center! We now buy all our wine in a box. There are a growing number of excellent choices. We are partial to Black Box but there are more and more excellent choices coming to market. An added benefit is that the wine never spoils because it is not exposed to air (a tap on the bottom of the box does the trick) so no more wasted wine!

4. Plastic water bottles

Are these really necessary? Our tap water is quite good where we live and if you add a good filter system you get a water quality that is probably equivalent or better than what you get in plastic bottles. Very few brands of bottled water are actually spring water, most are simply somebody else’s tap water with some degree of filtration.  Do you really want to pay for that?

5. consider packaging with your purchase decisions

I recently bought a flash drive. Yes, those tiny things you plug into your computer. Do we really need a bulky plastic box to sell these things? I found one at the checkout register with no packaging, just sitting there in all of its naked glory, and it got my business. Yes, the packaging ends up in the recycle bin, but if it isn’t there in the first place, even better.

So I’ve shrunk my recycle center down to a couple of large shoe boxes and I will continue to drill down to the root cause of what is in those remaining bins to keep vigilant on having less. When the next house guest says “What happened to all of your recycling?”  I will just smile. 

How about you? Do you have any ideas or suggestions for cutting down your household recycling?


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Dean Athanas

Dean started the Green Shuttle after a long career in the manufacturing industry. He loves running a company that cares about the environment, but he loves interacting with his customers and drivers even more.

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