Your Guide to Recycling at Home

little girl carrying a box

Posted on May 29th, 2020

Recycling at home can be a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Some areas offer recycling as part of the waste pick up programs, but other cities do not. When considering recycling for your family, it is imperative that you choose what works best for your family considering available options and ease of access. Even before you recycle, housekeeping can be stressful but if you follow these tips it will make everything a lot easier for you.

Waste Pick Up Tips

If your recycling is collected with your garbage, you should still separate your materials. Below are some tips for recycling using the waste pick up options.

Learn the Process

Many waste pick up options allow users to separate their recyclables by paper, plastic, glass, and metal. Others prefer that everything is mixed, and the facility will sort it. Be sure that you find out what the facility or pick up service prefers. Also, some plastics are difficult to recycle and home pick up does not accept those items. These might include plastic bags, specific containers, or other materials. Paper products can all be recycled, so they are not usually an issue. You can shred any documents you no longer require in your home office and recycle them too. Please label any potentially harmful items as well.

For Comingled (Unseparated) Recycling

Check the numbers or materials on the products you wish to recycle. While most pickup programs won’t allow you to recycle plastic bags such as grocery bags, newspaper bags, or similar products, many grocery stores will take them. If you cannot recycle them with your other rubbish, see if you can easily drop them off elsewhere. If the item can be placed in your recycling container, be sure that it is not soiled or contains food products. While many facilities clean them once they arrive, your container will not attract as many pests and will have fewer odors if you clean your products first.

For Separated Recycling

Place paper products, plastics and glass/metal in separate bins. Most places allow glass and metal to be recycled together. If you do not have different bins, consider using recyclable bags or containers. Paper bags can often tear, especially if wet, so use caution when choosing the appropriate bags or bins. All paper products can be recycled. Most glass or metal products can be recycled as well. However, some glass, like lightbulbs, may need to be recycled separately. Plastics depend on the type. This is where learning the process comes in handy. You will still need to clean your recyclables of food or waste to minimize the smell and maximize pest control.

Self-directed Recycling

If you do not have recycling available through your garbage pickup options in your area, you can still recycle. Many regions have recycling centers. These centers sometimes specialize in certain types of products, while others will take anything recyclable. While the steps are similar to the other actions, let’s take a look at what might be available.

County or City Directed Services

Many areas have city or county services available. These services are often free or low cost for residents. Websites and county information can often let residents know what is available and when. Many counties have multiple service locations. Sometimes one place might prohibit or allow certain things over others.

Commercial Services

Sometimes commercial services are available. They will often only take one type of product at a time. For example, some services take aluminum only or scrap metals. These facilities will sometimes pay customers by the pound for materials. Old vehicles, broken down utility buildings and other metal objects can be bought and weighed for payment. Check their website or call for information. Sometimes these centers require you to bring your title or other documentation that shows that the item is yours to be recycled.

Separate materials

Keep materials separated and cleaned. Some facilities will not accept excessively dirty or mixed items. Following the above rules for separation is usually okay. Check with the center on which plastics are allowed. Also, make sure that you understand any limits that the facility may have. This includes restrictions on certifications and other information. Tires will often require a specific license after so many (usually 5) in one trip.

Other Tips

Sometimes these two categories are not enough, and people want to do more. What else can you do to reduce your waste production?


Instead of tossing old materials, see what you can create from them by upcycling. Make a blanket from favorite worn-out tee shirts. Paint an old stool and use it as an entryway table to place keys or mail.


Sometimes you aren’t improving the product when you reuse it. For example, using old socks for cleaning rags is not necessarily an upcycle, but it keeps you from creating and purchasing more waste products. You can wash baby food jars to use to store small items such as pins, paper clips or beads.

Buy in Bulk

Buy items used often, such as kitchen cleaning products, in larger containers. Usually, these containers will reduce the overall trash you create and you will not use as many packages.


Instead of using paper towels, opt for napkins or washcloths. Consider using your regular dish plates instead of paper or single-use plastics. Buy a whole house water filter and bottle the water yourself. This might seem expensive at first, but if you consider the lack of repeated purchases, you might save money in the long run.


Instead of purchasing so many products, make them yourself. Instead of buying dish soap, look online for a way to make it yourself. This will keep you from purchasing single-use paper and plastic products. Can you make your own dryer balls, breakfast burritos or flavored waters? Get creative. See what you can make at home.

Final Thoughts

Reducing your carbon footprint is not about one single act. Think of ways you can reuse or recycle materials that you use regularly. If your town does not offer recycling, ask your officials what they would need to start a program. If it isn’t feasible for city officials, consider trips to your local recycling center, use reusable items, and upcycle when possible. Recycling is just one way to begin to protect our environment from daily consumption. Everyone can do something to recycle even if it is not a service that is available commercially in your area.