Recycling and composting: make it easy

“The kids can’t be bothered taking their apple cores outside to the compost bin.” or “Mum’s always putting the wrong stuff in the recycling bin.” or “I try to recycle and compost, but my family keeps messing it up!”

“How do I get them to get their rubbish right?”

It’s a question I’m often asked by avid but frustrated recyclers. It seems their husbands, wives, children, parents, flatmates and/or other miscellaneous housemates are sometimes less enthusiastic. Here are some ideas for helping your household get their recycling right.

A 3 bin system in the kitchen

Three bins: one each for rubbish, recycling and compostables

The kitchen is the hub of the house and the place where much of the waste is created. Have three bins in the kitchen: one each for recycling, landfill (general rubbish) and compost. The aim is to make recycling and composting easier and more convenient. If you expect your housemates to take a trip outside every time they have an empty bottle, box or banana peel, you’ll probably meet with resistance. More often than not, these items will end up in the trash.

Use a small, well-sealed bin for compost. You will want to empty it regularly, particularly in warm weather, as the food scraps can get pretty smelly as they break down. Food waste is classified as ‘putrescible waste’ for a reason!

Compost bins for the kitchen

My ‘Kitchen Collector’ bin for compostable food scraps

I love my ‘Kitchen Collector’ 7.5 litre compost bin. It fits nicely in the cupboard under my sink, it seals well, has a handle and is a good size for collecting two to four days worth of fruit and vegetable scraps before emptying into the backyard compost bin.

A wide range of kitchen compost bins are available. The cheapest is a bucket and lid set available from the supermarket in the frozen desserts section – you just have to eat the ice cream inside the bucket before you can use it. 🙂 At the other—more Gwyneth Paltrow—end of the spectrum, you can also get lovely retro-style compost canisters, like the Ecology bin pictured.

Classy composting!

What if you don’t have a backyard compost bin for food scraps? No problem. Worm farms and Bokashi buckets are great alternatives for apartments. One day, I’ll do a post on Bokashi bins but, in the mean time, the G magazine Bokashi bin road test is a great read.

Getting recycling right

Take the time to check that your recycling the right things through your council’s collection. Check online at Planet Ark’s Recycling Near You website (Australia only).

Signs and the placement of bins can help to make it easier

Get your family together and clearly tell them the basics of what they can and can’t put in the recycling bin. Some signage can help, and pictures give visual clues, which can be particularly helpful if you have pre-schoolers. In the example above, there are some line drawings to serve as reminders of what they can recycle and that general rubbish ends up in landfill. I also used traffic light colouring—green for recycling and red for landfill—as another gentle reminder that it’s good to recycle. This is reinforced by the placement of the bins; recycling is higher as it’s the first option I want my kids to consider.

And finally…

The Victorian Government has produced some new TV ads to encourage people to ‘get it right on bin night’. Here’s one to get you thinking beyond the kitchen…

So there are some ideas to get you started. Have you tried something at home or work that has helped get your friends, family and colleagues on board? If so, then share it with us.


2 thoughts on “Recycling and composting: make it easy

  1. Hi Tanya,
    As a mum of a young daughter, I really relate to your blog and strive to teach my enthusiastic 2 yr old how important is to respect the environment, recycle, and not pull all the flowers off our plants so the bees can share some! After the birth of my daughter I have also made some big changes, and stepped away from my corporate career to instead do something that I believe will make a positive difference in the world.

    Our company Compost-A-Pak sells compostable bags which are a fantastic replacement for both plastic bin liners and shopping bags. We have partnered with Source Separation Systems (who sell your fabulous kitchen caddy) to sell these bags to local councils, and are now expanding to sell directly to the public. I really believe if you make things more convenient, people will get involved, and with over 50% of our household waste in Australia being organic, green waste diversion and composting can make a significant difference to the landfill dangers as you know.

    There is a lot more information on our Facebook page related to our sustainable manufacturing, the comparisons to the alternatives and our certifications which prove our bags will compost with your food scraps in about the same time as a dry leaf leaving no harmful residue

    I would love to send you a few shopping bags and liners to trial with your kitchen caddy, and you can experiment with your composting to see the results.


  2. Thanks for you comment Melanie. South Australia is doing some great pioneering work with food & organic waste separation and collection. I’m watching with great interest! Thank you for your offer – I’m already trialling a few myself. I prefer to buy them myself (trying to maintain objectivity and avoid any subconscious bias I might have in trialling freebies!). All the best with your work (and your work/life balance 🙂 )

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