How do you recycle?

Browse main article categories

little-miss-green-recycles-glass-kerbsideI love how Small Footprints picks such meaningful ideas for our Change the World Wednesday challenges.

This week is all about recycling and we’ve been asked to share our ideas with a new member of the CTWW gang – Petunia GreenBeans!

Petunia is on a mission to change the world one step at a time and she’s struggling with recycling. She’s struggling with sorting plastics, paper and aluminium and is confused with the plastics codes.

Petunia is asking us to share our own experiences on this important topic and is asking us how we manage it. Check out her post “How do you recycle

Last year our family accumulated just one carrier bag of landfill waste for the entire year, so as you might have guessed, this is a topic of passion for me!

The first thing to remember is the order of the 3 Rs – we all know they mean Reduce, Reuse, Recycle but few of us realise they are in that order for a reason: Recycling is bottom of the list in terms of sustainability.

Wants and needs

I’d like to add a fourth R – REFUSE or RETHINK if you like. The first thing we do here at Green Towers is ask ourselves if we really need an item before we buy it. It’s amazing how many times we buy on autopilot and don’t bother to separate our wants from our needs.

The million dollar question

If you need something look for the best option – before you buy it ask yourself ” What will I do with this product or packaging after I have finished using it?” If it can be composted, reused or recycled go henceforth to the checkout and part with your hard-earned cash, but if it has to be landfilled leave it on the shelf and look for an alternative – it’s time to vote with your money folks and realise how powerful and influential you are!

The danger with not wanting to put things in landfill is that you become a hoarder. Petunia has already shared that she has enough toilet paper roll binoculars to host a classroom safari, so you have to learn to let go. Sometimes it means throwing something in the bin with the pact that you will do better next time, but for goodness sake don’t hoard stuff because you’ll soon give up in desperation and throw it all away; then you’ll be beating yourself up for failure and there are no failures here…

Something I learned early on was that we had to find a system that worked for us and for us it included the following five  steps:

Kerbside recycling

Finding out what we could recycle at kerbside and utilising this facility

Bring bank recycling

Finding out what we could recycle at local bring banks – we only included those that we would pass regularly anyway so that we didn’t make special journeys

Recycling system

separate, labelled containers for everything we could recycle locally at Bring banks – nothing fancy, just a few boxes that we already had at Chez Green in order to keep everything neat and tidy. Have one for paper, one for aluminium, one for plastic bottles – it’s not rocket science here.

Our Recycling Area


Kitchen bin

Removing the kitchen bin – we realised we were still throwing things away through habit. We removed the bin to make us stop and think “What shall I do with this?”


The mantra ‘There’s no such place as away!’. We all throw things away, but where is “Away?” It’s not some magical place; it’s a landfill site, an incinerator, a ship to China or the bottom of the ocean. When you can’t be bothered to rinse another tin, that image should help keep you on track.

What about you – do you have any tips for Petunia?


  1. ecolicious mama on May 27, 2011 at 4:27 am

    “It’s not some magical place; it’s a landfill site, an incinerator, a ship to China or the bottom of the ocean. When you can’t be bothered to rinse another tin, that image should help keep you on track.”

    thank you for your brutal honesty there!!!!

  2. Mrs Green on May 28, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    @ecolicious mama: No worries; I hope it’s something that stays with you when you are sorting through your trash – it certainly helps me!

  3. April H on May 28, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    Fortunately we have great curbside recycling here!

  4. [email protected] eco friendly homemaking on May 28, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    Great post and great tips!! Such wonderful information on how to recycle.

  5. Small Footprints on May 31, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    Every time I read, or remind myself, that you and your family filled just one bin of landfill trash in an entire year … well … I am in awe! The Greens are waste elimination experts!! I love your plan for getting started …. especially the first task. We do so many things without really considering our actions … if we did just this one thing, we’d make a huge difference.

    Thanks, Mrs. Green!

  6. Robin Easton on May 31, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    I really enjoyed this post. I LOVE the fourth R – REFUSE or RETHINK. I think that one alone could stop/save so much. Because it stops the waste before it even enters our homes. Also, if we all do it, it starts to send a message to manufacturers that we don’t want things that are packaged, etc.

    I also LOVED this question: “What will I do with this product or packaging after I have finished using it?” YES!!! That is so crucial.

    I have a friend that goes around the store and throws everything she “wants” into here cart, no matter what it is, just as if she was going to buy it all, even lets herself feel the thrill of buying it. LOL! 😉 Then when she is done she goes through her cart and says, “Do I really need this, or this , or that?” Then she imagines that she already is home and has had the item for a week or two, and asks, “Now, how do I feel about it.” She told me that in almost 100% of cases, the thrill has come and gone and she now realizes/feels that she doesn’t care about it anymore or need it.

    I just thought that was so cool. Maybe a bit time consuming, but she said it has DRASTICALLY cut down the amount of “stuff” she buys and takes into her home and ends up throwing out.

    Great post. Important post!! Thank you for it.

  7. Brittany | Limitless Minimalist on June 3, 2011 at 6:35 am

    I always think its ironic that I do my recycling at Walmart…
    Good job noting the 4th “R,” not many people realize that recycling is not always the best choice, better than an item going to a landfill, but its always best to just use less.

  8. Mrs Green on June 3, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    @April H: Great to hear you have good kerbside facilities – ours definitely leave room for improvements 🙂

    @[email protected] eco friendly homemaking: Thanks Alicia; glad you enjoyed it

    @Small Footprints: Thanks for the comment and the inspiration behind the post; you’re right – those simple questions can make all the difference…

    @Robin Easton: Hi Robin, thanks for your comment – I love what your friend does; as you say, time consuming, but effective nonetheless. For non-food purchases the 30 day rule can work – put something on your wishlist for 30 days before committing to buy. Most things will lose their lure by then 😉

    @Brittany | Limitless Minimalist: HI Brittany, it doesn’t matter where you do your recycling, as long as you do it!

  9. Petunia GreenBeans on June 28, 2011 at 5:07 am

    Woohooo!! Revamping our recycling boxes courtesy of you, I keep returning for more ideas!! The quintessential guide to bins at least mama, thank you so much!!

  10. […] Read the complete article at The Little Green Blog…     […]

  11. Mrs Green on July 18, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    @Petunia GreenBeans: you’re welcome and thanks for the lovely video you created; it was so creative and inspirational!

Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors

Or try our Site map and Tags

Featured posts

Five natural ways to cure Seasonal Affective Disorder SAD

In Northern Europe, around 12 million people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Symptoms range from mild such as feeling a little…

Basic natural household cleaning kit

You’ve all been waiting patiently to begin making your own household cleaners. You know some of the nasties you want to avoid…

A natural homemade recipe for cough syrup using thyme, garlic, honey and sage.

Mother Nature bestows so many gifts upon us, providing all we could ever need for a long and healthy life; foods to…