Recycling Successfully by Staying Organized

Vickie Dellaquila - March 07, 2016 10:28 AM

Many of our clients love to recycle. Our senior clients, especially those who have lived through the Depression, are experts at reusing and repurposing items. Whether the motivation to recycle or reuse comes from a desire to protect the environment or simply feelings about wastefulness, it’s a great and very important intention.  Sometimes though, recyclables can overwhelm a home and do more harm than good. The key to recycling successfully is staying organized and making the time to get recyclables where they need to be.

Here are some tips:

o    Know what your municipality can recycle: If you have a recycling pick up service in your area, it is important to know exactly what you are allowed to put in your recycling bin. There are some of us who have become so overzealous about recycling that we try to put it in items that cannot be recycled in our area (i.e.: Christmas lights) and actually end up contaminating the recycling stream. Just because something might have a recycling symbol on it does not mean that it can necessarily be recycled in your area.

o    Set up collection areas for main stream recyclables: Many of us already do this in our homes. The kitchen is always a great place to have a recycling bin, as is an office or anywhere you might collect paper. If you don’t have recycling pick up in your area or choose to take your everyday recyclables to a drop off point where items must be separated, I recommend investing in a system of bins to store and sort your recyclables. I find that stackable bins work well - one for each category of recyclables - to store and sort your items. Once they are full, or consistently one day a week, take them to your recycling drop off and empty them.

o    Make space for specialty recycling items: I recommend setting up containers to collect specialty recyclables like Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs, ink cartridges, batteries, plastic bags and electronic waste. I have small containers set up in my laundry room where I collect these items.

o    Schedule time to take your recycling where it needs to be: If your recycling is picked up from your curb regularly, be sure to include time in your schedule to put it out. For items that need to be dropped off or specialty items, consider scheduling time weekly or, biweekly, or one Saturday a month to empty those recycling points.  Make a date with yourself and keep it!

Setting up collection containers is a great strategy for any items that may be on their way out of your life. Along with my specialty recycling containers, I keep a box for donations in my laundry room. That way, as I come across clothing or other items that I no longer want, I put them in the box and empty it one Saturday a month. I also have an area set up for expired medications and hazardous waste which I take to special collections once a year. By making space in your home for the recyclables that are leaving your life and making the time to let them go, you’ll do your part in making the world a better place.

Vickie Dellaquila is western Pennsylvania’s only Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization and owner of Organization Rules® Inc. Organization Rules provides compassionate organizing services for every stage of your life®. She is the author of Don’t Toss My Memories in the Trash: A Step-by-Step Guide to Helping Seniors Downsize, Organize, and Move. Please visit

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