Day 3: Recycling and How to Make It More Accessible

Yesterday, we went through how to reduce the amount of stuff coming into our homes, so we don't have the problem of knowing what to do with it later.

But now it's too late, our homes are already full of stuff. What do we do about that? The rest of the series will be about what to do with the stuff we already have once it's no longer useful or wanted.

We'll start today with an other R: recycling. It may not be the next R to tackle, that would be Reuse (and repurpose), but since reusing is so incredibly vast and that it spans pretty much the rest of the month, I thought we'd get recycling out of the way first.


Recycling is what stands between reusing and just plain throwing something out. These days, we are blessed to have the means to recycle so many different materials, yet still 80% of recyclable material ends up in the landfill. That is just unacceptable.

Take a moment now to visit your municipality's recycling website, you might just learn a thing or two! Go ahead, open an other tab (or window) so you don't loose this page, and google recycling and your city/municipality, I'll wait for you right here :) There's also usually a list of things that are NOT recyclable that may fall into one of the recyclable categories (confusing a little- I know).


While you're on that website (hope you didn't close it yet!), check what types of plastics your city recycles, as this can change from city to city. The only plastic not accepted here is #6 plastic. That includes individual yogourt cups, mushroom containers and styrofoam, amongst others, so I try as much as possible to reuse those things. Always look for the little recycling symbol with a number in the center, usually located on the underside of the item, to see if that plastic can be put in the recycling. And you should rinse everything that is soiled.

For example, by visiting Montreal's recycling website when I moved here a couple years ago, I learned that plastic bags are recyclable here, but they ask you to put all bags within one bag instead of all of them loose.

So I've stuck a little hook beside my recycling garbage to hang a bag, then I put all other bags in there until it's full. I also keep an other supply of plastic bags that we use for lunches.

Also, we don't need to separate plastics, glass and metal from paper and cardbaord here, unlike in Ottawa, where I'm from. That does make it a lot easier, though I never really minded separating before. Also Ottawa recycled individual yogourt cups, but not Montreal :(

As for glass, it's pretty much all recyclable, except drinking glasses and windows. Same for metal. Aluminium containers, cans, lids can be recycled. Aluminium foil may or may not be recyclable, so check. Other types of aluminum, such as siding, gutters, car components, storm window frames, and lawn furniture can also be recycled.

And of course cardboard and paper of any kind, as long as it is clean, so no pizza boxes. Juice and milk cartons also fall in this category and are recyclable.


Don't forget the packaging when you buy something! At least the cardboard/cardstock type. I'm not entirely sure about the plastic packaging though... Can't find that information. Sometimes there'll be the recycle triangle with a number on it to help you out here. I've found recently that a lot of bags have the #4 plastic sign on it, which makes me really happy!

Alright, now that we know what we can recycle, let's make it easier for everyone to recycle. You recycling bins are just as important as your trash cans! If your city requires you to separate your recycling, this might be a bit trickier, but it's still doable!

First, place a recycling bin near where you drop off your mail, that way you can recycle all junk mail and such. It's also a good idea to have one near your desk or office (mine is by my computer desk, below), so that you can recycle paper. We'll cover more in depth how to minimize paper waste tomorrow.

Next, identify those areas that would benefit from a recycling can and add one. You should have a recycling station at least on every floor, if not more. Making recycling accessible is the key to making it easy!

An alternative to having many different bins, is to split one trash can in 2 with a simple cardboard divider (pictured below as an example). Half the trash can for trash, and the other for recycling! Would work great in the kids' bedroom, I think. (Not tested, though... thoughts?)

If you do need to separate your recycling, then I think the best option is to do it while emptying the bins into the bigger bins, the ones you usually keep outside or in the garage and bring out to the curb every week. It takes a few more seconds, but it's manageable, especially when it's just one or twice a week.

Then you just have to haul your recycling bins along with your trash can to the curb side where the trucks will take care of the rest. Of course that's for those who have recycling pick-up.

Cities that do have it also will provide you with the recycling bins, so if you don't have one but your neighbours do, call up the city and ask for some. Sometimes they'll give you new bins if the old ones are lost or badly damaged (in which case you can recycle the bins themselves!).

The one in the left picture below is the bins they give every household here, and then they have the bigger ones by the side of the road(right picture). It might not be very pretty, but with the dense population and the majority living in apartments in Montreal, it's the best solution.

If you are unlucky and don't have recycling pick-up, I feel for you. You can still recycle, you do have the option to bring recyclable material to a nearby recycling facility, you just need to google the nearest one. You'll make me proud if you do!

Were any of these tips useful for you? Do you already have recycling stations throughout your home? Any other tips to make recycling easier for you and your kids?

Already, by following these simple steps, you should see the amount of trash in your garbage cans greatly reduced! And that makes me so happy!! Don't worry, I didn't forget food scraps and organics, that'll be covered next week, so stay tuned!

I party at these parties.


  1. My wife and I developed a very durable version of your split can solution, that we hope will be available in stores soon. See or However, to bring this to market we are going to need to convince retailers there is demand for it. You can help with this by “liking” our product on Facebook (if you do indeed like the idea and want to see it in stores) and spreading the word to others. Happy recycling!

  2. And R for reeducating...which is what you are doing. Reeducating the public and imploring them to recycle. Another great post. You are making a difference.


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