When it comes to recycling household products, most people only think about the kitchen: the soup cans, the pasta jars, the cardboard cereal boxes and snack packaging. While recycling bins are commonly found next to the kitchen trash, you should also consider adding some to your bathroom.
Sound strange? Not when you realize those tissue boxes, cardboard toilet paper rolls and plastic shampoo bottles that usually end up in the trash are all recyclable. Most people don’t consider their bathroom beyond basic decoration and functionality, but it takes just a few minutes and very little space to set up a convenient station that can help save the earth and keep a lot of waste out of landfills.
1. Gather three small baskets, bins or boxes (old shoeboxes work great in a pinch!). If you aren’t hiding the system away, or you’re concerned it won’t match your bathroom decor, consider purchasing three decorative wastebaskets instead.
2. Label each box or basket: one for plastic, one for aerosol cans and one for cardboard.
3. Place your baskets or boxes under the vanity, tuck them in an unused corner, or stack them in the linen closet.
4. Make sure your family knows which items can be recycled—some are surprising! My children didn’t know they could recycle the plastic bag that held cotton balls or the sunscreen bottle, and my husband didn’t realize that his shaving cream can and deodorant container could be salvaged, too. To avoid confusion, consider printing a list of eligible recyclables, then laminating it and hanging it on a towel hook in the bathroom. Here are a few to get you started:
• Hairspray cans
• Plastic combs
• Hand lotion tubes
• Cardboard boxes from toothpaste, bars of soap, etc.
• Mouthwash bottles
• Plastic packaging
• Contact lens solution bottles
Note that plastic bottle pumps cannot be recycled. To help prevent any mishaps (and cut down on waste), purchase non-disposable soap and lotion dispensers and buy your hand soap and body lotion in refill packages.
If you are currently remodeling your bathroom, have your recycling system in mind when picking out your furnishings. A vanity with spacious cabinets is the perfect place to stow recycling bins, keeping your bathroom looking neat and tidy.
It can take some time for this shift in behavior to take root with your family. If you’re used to throwing away the shampoo bottle, you’ll have to make a conscious effort to change that habit and place it in the recycling box instead. When my family started, I’d regularly see items in the trash can that needed to be moved. It became easier after a few reminders, and now it’s a natural habit.
It’s an important habit, too—the average American generates 4.3 pounds of waste per day. With the number of personal care products used in most homes, it only makes sense to recycle. In fact, the Environmental Working Group reported that a quarter of all women use at least 15 different toiletries daily. Think of all those plastic bottles, boxes and aerosol cans that just get tossed into the trash. What a difference it would make if we all had a bathroom recycling station!
Green and Clean Mom Sommer Poquette is a recycling maven who shares her tips online for The Home Depot. Sommer’s advice on bathroom recycling aims to keep this most important room organized and eco-friendly. To review bathroom vanities that can help you set up your recycling system, you can visit Home Depot's website. Read all of Sommer's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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