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Recycling in a Small Kitchen

Recycling in a Small Kitchen

I have a small kitchen. My house was built in the ’60s, when storage space was still considered a luxury not a necessity. Because of this, I’m forced to find clever ways to fit all the pots, pans, plates, glasses, serving dishes, small appliances, and oh yeah, food into my small kitchen. My seriously limited space makes recycling. The fact that there is no recycling pickup where I live makes things even more complicated.

I only have a system in place for aluminum but I’ve been inspired to add plastic, paper, steel and glass to the list. The fact that my local recycling drop-off just increased the list of items that it will accept had a lot to do with my newfound enthusiasm. The challenge is working out a system that will make it easy to add these new recyclables in my small kitchen and be able to store significant quantities so I am not making frequent trips to the drop-off.

First, I looked at the space I had already devoted to trash collection and recycling. I have a trash can under my sink and an aluminum receptacle in the island. When I try to fit another trash can under the sink, it dislodges the plumbing. I found that one out the hard way. So I can either use my one recycling container for all my recyclables instead of just aluminum, or add another.

I have a 16-year-old son who travels in a pack of friends and they seem to land at my house more often than not. All of them drink soda so we go through a lot of aluminum cans. OK, I drink soda too. So I think that I’m probably going to need more receptacles if I’m going to recycle more items.

As small as my kitchen is, I did have some room at the end of the island where I could put a narrow trash can. When I went to the local housewares store, I didn’t find anything that was made specifically for recycling. I settled on a really pretty stainless steel container that is heavy duty, holds 40 liters and cost around $90. I know that all steel has some amount of recycled content and I like this as much as I like the look of the can. Now I use this can for all my recyclables other than aluminum. When it’s full, I take it downstairs to the garage (where I have more room) and sort it into separate bins. This way, I manage to keep my small kitchen neat and clean and use multiple bins in my garage for storage so I make the trip to the recycling drop-off once every two or three weeks.

Quick tips for small kitchens:

  1. In the kitchen, use one container for all recyclables.
  2. Rinse all your recyclables before tossing them into the recycling can.
  3. If you have curbside recycling pickup, you’re probably set. If you have to drop off your own recyclables, then you’ll also need to create a sorting station.
  4. Set up your sorting station someplace you have room, like a garage.
  5. Have individual bins in this sorting station that correspond to the containers at your drop-off.

For more information or to subscribe at the introductory price of $10 a year, go to . Positively Green magazine launches in 2008. This quarterly women’s magazine will cover every aspect of green from eco-friendly vacations to green fashion to green health. With articles that don’t just explain the problems, they outline solutions for busy people who want to make the change but don’t have the time to research solutions.

Read more: Home, Reduce, Recycle & Reuse

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Kelly Magill

Kelly Magill is founder and publisher of Positively Green, a quarterly women's magazine that covers every aspect of green from eco-friendly vacations to green fashion to green health.


+ add your own
12:00PM PDT on May 10, 2013

Thanks for these ideas!

9:34AM PDT on May 4, 2011

This article gives me the idea of how to organize my kitchen.. thank you for sharing. Cheers!

2:15AM PDT on Apr 17, 2011

thanks for sharing

11:17PM PDT on Mar 26, 2011


5:37PM PDT on Mar 26, 2011


10:21AM PST on Feb 8, 2011

I am so thankful for the recycling we have here. There is no pickup, but the solid waste authority has recyling dumpsters all around town where you can drop off the recyclables without having to sort them. And they take a large range of things, including styrofoam. So I'm able to recycle a lot of our waste. We have twice as much to recycle at the end of the week as we do to throw out, maybe more!

11:13PM PST on Feb 7, 2011

I need to learn more about recyling, thanks for posting.

2:11AM PST on Feb 4, 2011

Thanks for the article.

6:00AM PST on Feb 2, 2011

I guess I'm lucky to live where we have a recycling center less than 2 miles away. They're open on Wednesday evenings and Saturday, all day. They accept all recyclables as long as they're clean. They even take construction materials. It came in really handy when I remodelled my 150 year old house.

4:09AM PST on Feb 2, 2011

I have 3 empty plaster compound buckets directly outside my back door. During the day I sort things into the buckets, at night I take everything to the garage to put into the municipal collection containers. This keeps my house free from smells and open bins of cans/paper...

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