how to recycle when you live in an apartment

How to Recycle When You Live in an Apartment

If you live in a community that doesn’t recycle, you might find it challenging to be earth-conscious. But it’s not impossible. If you’re trying to find ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle, take a look at these tips and suggestions for how to recycle when you live in an apartment that doesn’t offer the service.


1. Set up your own recycling system

The most thorough way to begin recycling everything you can is to set up your own recycling system. This can be a drawn-out process, so take a look at these steps to get started:

  • First, go online to find the recycling center nearest to you. The website Earth911 has an easy search feature where you can find the recycling centers that are closest to your apartment building. Once you’ve found a recycling center, ask them for information on which items they’ll accept.
  • Set up a recycling system in your home. For people with a good amount of storage space in their apartment, this can be as easy as putting a couple of bins in the front closet. But if you have a small apartment, there are ways you can store recyclables, as well. Consolidate some of your kitchen items to make an extra couple of drawers available, where you can put papers, cans and bottles. Separate the items into reusable, linen grocery store bags so you can simply lift them out of the drawers when your ready to go.
  • The next step is one that stumps a lot of people — you have to find a way to get your recyclables to the recycling center. If you don’t have a car, you can either use public transportation, take a cab or rent a Zipcar for an hour or two. Some people even set up carpool schedules with other renters in their building or complex and take turns bringing everyone’s recyclables over!

2. Save your cans

Several states have grocery stores with aluminum can buy-back recycling systems set up, which makes recycling them a cinch. These machines generally only accept aluminum soda cans (so no soup or vegetable cans), and they can pay from 5 to 10 cents for each can.

3. Reduce

Taking your paper, cans and bottles to a recycling center isn’t the only way to be more eco-friendly in your daily life. As the mantra goes, “reduce, reuse, recycle,” so don’t forget the first two words.

recycling reusable bags

To reduce, try cutting down on your consumption. Carry around a reusable water bottle instead of buying bottled water everyday. Bring your own travel mug to Starbucks. Take reusable totes with you to the grocery store so you don’t have to use plastic grocery bags.

Don’t print a lot of paper unless you absolutely have to. There are apps for almost everything, so use them for grocery lists and calendars instead of using paper, and go online to opt-out of receiving all the junk mail you throw into the trash right away.

4. Reuse

To reuse, you can get creative. Think of ways you can constantly reuse items, like repurposing glass jars as storage containers and turning old T-shirts into rags. Also, if there are any preschools or daycare centers around, see if they’re looking for arts and crafts items, like old boxes or egg cartons instead of throwing those away.

5. Recycle water

It might sound a little out of the ordinary, but recycling water is very important and can be pretty easy. For instance, you could use the pasta water from dinner or melted ice in a cooler to water the garden.

In general, humans waste a lot of valuable water doing day-to-day activities like brushing teeth and washing dishes, so try to reduce the amount of water you’re using by keeping the faucet off until you need it, and try to think of creative ways to recycle water instead of just washing it down the drain.

6. Buy recycled materials

Recycling yourself is the first step, but buying recycled materials keeps the process going. Supporting brands that use recycled materials will keep them in business and, in turn, promote more reusing and recycling.

You can also purchase other home items you need at thrift stores, such as furniture and décor. Not only are you preventing such items from going to a landfill, but you’re cutting down on the packaging that would be used on these items if you were to buy them new.

consignment store

Recycling also goes for clothing. Textile production alone puts out 1.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent each year. Rather than buying new, opt for second-hand and thrift clothing as often as possible to help keep that carbon-dioxide out of the atmosphere.

And, when possible, apply zero-waste practices, such as composting your leftover food to use as fertilizer.

7. Get others involved

You can’t be the only one that wants to recycle — there are probably plenty of other people in your building that want to do it, too! You can ask your neighbors and other residents if they have a recycling system already or if they’d like to be part of one. That way, you can get others involved in saving the planet and take turns hauling recyclables to their respective centers.

If you find that the vast majority of your apartment building is already recycling or would like to begin doing so, it may be an opportunity to get the building’s management involved. You can talk to management and see if they would consider setting something up. You never know unless you ask!

Learn how to recycle when you live in an apartment

If you’re looking to begin recycling, it’s absolutely possible, even if your apartment building doesn’t have a recycling system in place. Really, it’s up to you to be the difference and make a change in the way you (and possibly your entire building) recycle to help reduce your impact on the planet. All you need to do is start putting forth a little extra effort to reduce, reuse and recycle!


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