Design solution sorts everything out - Metro US

Design solution sorts everything out

Labelled bins help you keep up with the 3Rs

carlyn yandle/for metro vancouver

This convenient pull-out pantry drawer holds two small plastic bins with flip lids, one labelled ‘non-recyclables’ and the other ‘compost.’ Recycling drawers are in the adjacent cabinet.

This is the time of year when I can’t deny it any longer: my jeans are fitting like a choke chain on a bad dog. I know what it takes to trim off the annual post-winter accumulation: sensible meal planning. No plan, no results.

Same goes for another kind of reducing: the amount of garbage we accumulate.

Sure, our intentions may be good, but when we’re scrambling to tidy up the place before company arrives or throwing together a meal on the run, it’s just more convenient to huck everything in a big ol’ trash bin than sort out the compostables from the food wrappers and the recyclables from the returnables.

It’s too easy to put a lid on that whole 3-R issue. Out of sight, out of mind.

Except we can’t really do that and still have a clear conscience. Recyclable plastics can’t be chucked in the garbage, destined for sitting in the landfill for the next 500 years. Pop cans and wine bottles must be returned. Even if we can live with that weighing on our heads, regulations will — must — come into effect soon, seriously restricting household waste.

This is where design is important. If you haven’t set up a sorting centre in your kitchen despite your best intentions, you’ll be tempted to chuck everything into the only garbage can on hand, which is probably a large one. But even the smallest kitchen can accommodate sorting out. The first step is switching that standard garbage can to one half that size.

Label it “non-recyclables” — even if you live alone, because it reminds you that it’s the last-resort bin. Next, clear out a lower kitchen cabinet and dedicate it for recyclables and returnables. This is where most of the garbage volume will end up. (I’m a big fan of the Clear-View stackable plastic drawers, available at Shoppers Drug Mart and London Drugs, among others.) I label two drawers with a Sharpie to coincide with the recycling options available in my apartment building: “mixed paper” and “containers.” My newspaper recycling is a bigger box in my storeroom. Beside the “non-recyclable” (a.k.a. trash) bin, I have an identical bin labelled “compost,” for my worm compost bin I keep on my deck.

I know — worm-composting takes more commitment than most of us are willing to undertake, but until the city gets its act together and provides compost pick-up options, I’ve got more faith in worms.

Carlyn Yandle is a Vancouver journalist with her own room-planning business, Home Reworks (www.homereworks.com). She dwells on urban-home issues every Thursday in Metro.

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