Make Recycling Convenient with a Home Recycling Inventory and Outbox

We spend so much time at home, it’s easy to stop noticing what’s really there and get used to the way we have things set up. Trash and recycling can especially become invisible, something we think about only when we need to use it. Make recycling and waste reduction an integrated, convenient part of your life by completing a home recycling inventory and creating an outbox.

Do a Walkthrough of Your House

Inventory Your Home Recycling Setup

Take a few minutes to walk through each room of your house – including the garage – to check in on your trash, recycling, and compost setups.

  • Is there a recycling bin in every room that already has a trash can? If not, would a recycling bin be useful in that room?
  • Is there anywhere else in your house that an additional trash can or recycling bin would be helpful? (For example, a recycle bin where you sort your mail?)
  • Do you have a recycling bin in your bathroom(s)? In your garage?
  • Do you have a countertop compost pail in your kitchen? Do you like it? If you use a liner for your pail, do you like what you use, and are your refills easy to access?

Make a list of any gaps in your recycling and waste setup that you would like to fill.

If you don’t have a compost pail for your kitchen, you can get one for free at Kirkland City Hall. They’re available at our Recycling Station in the lobby, and free samples of BioBag compostable liners are available at the Public Works counter.

Inventory Your Storage for Drop-Off Recyclables and Donations

Items that require an errand to take care of tend to accumulate (at least at my house!) – but even if you’re Johnny-on-the-spot about moving recyclables and donations out the door, you probably have somewhere you tend to collect them. Go check out your systems for these items, even if they’re very transitory, to think about whether the system works for you or could be improved.

Drop-off Recyclables

Some common household items, like batteries and cell phones, aren’t recyclable in your cart at home but have options for recycling at drop-off locations around the area.

  • What items are you currently collecting for recycling?
  • Where do you collect those items before dropping them off? Maybe things pile up by the front door, maybe they float around the house in various locations, maybe they sit in the trunk of the car.
  • Are there other items you’d like to collect? Some common household items with options for recycling away from home include:


Our lives are always changing in ways small and large – from major lifestyle changes like new children or a new job to smaller shifts like hobbies that no longer fit us – and as our lifestyles change, so do our material needs and wants.

  • When you are ready to get rid of a usable, working item, do you usually donate it or try to give it away?
  • Where do you keep your items to donate?
  • How about items that you’re on the fence about, in the process of deciding whether you want to keep them or give them a new home?


It’s a fact of life that sometimes things break, buttons fall off, and seams tear. Do you have a set location where you keep items that need to be repaired or mended?

Create an “Outbox” for Recyclables and Donations

Put together a system that works for your household to make it easy to collect recyclables and donations, so you’ll always know where to put them when it’s time to get rid of them. Are you happy with your current system for collecting recyclables and donations? If not, what could you change to make it better? Some ideas include:

  • Designate a permanent location for each item you collect
  • Choose a single location in your home to consolidate all your items
  • Choose one location for all your recyclables and another for donations
  • Add a sign or label to your collection station(s)
  • Use a permanent box or container that will be recognizable for all members of your family
  • Keep “on the fence” items someplace where you won’t see them all the time
  • Put a post-it note on “on the fence” items with the date you placed it in your outbox, so you can feel safe in saying you haven’t used or missed the item in weeks/months

Fill in the Gaps

If you want to buy locally, plan to pick up any additional trash cans and recycling bins your house needs on your next errand trip during the week or next weekend. Otherwise, plan to order your bins sometime in the next week. If you don’t have an aesthetic preference, get a blue container for your recycling – blue is the recognized standard for recycling.