One simple step to reduce your household waste

Filed in Reduce by on May 15, 2009 20 Comments
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kitchen-binThe most important step we took as a family to reduce our household waste was to remove the kitchen bin!

This simple step forced us to think about how we would dispose of something.

It’s so easy for us to throw things in the bin, close the lid and forget about them. The out of sight, out of mind approach is instilled in most of us and stopping to think about whether we could put an item of ‘waste’ to better use takes a change of mindset.

What we did was to make the recycling containers more accessible and the dustbins less convenient. If we wanted to really throw something away, we had to go outside to do it. Whereas the recycling was kept in a convenient, warm, dry place – so much more pleasant to go to!

If you’re struggling to reduce your waste, why not remove your convenient kitchen bin and see if it makes a difference to the amount of waste you put into the landfill each week?


About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (20)

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  1. When we did our Zero Waste fortnight I taped the bin shut so it couldn’t be used.

    Now the bin is there but not really used and I’m looking to remove it and find something alot smaller to take the bits of non-descrpit plastic we still get.

  2. My husband and I did away with our kitchen bin about a year ago. It started because we have cats and I got tired of telling guests to not put food garbage in the under counter bin where the cats could get it — and fishing it out when we didn’t warn them in time. Because we didn’t put messy stuff in there, we didn’t keep a liner in it even, so food waste made a big, stinky mess when it did end up there. Finally, we decided to do away with the bin altogether so that people have to ask us where to put their garbage — at which time we can also point them to the compost and recycling bins in the back part of the foyer next to the regular garbage can.

    It has had some nice side effects. For one, there is one less trash can to empty before garbage day. We even decided to remove the one in the bedroom. Now there’s just one in the office and one in each bathroom and the large one in the foyer. And really, that’s enough for us.

    Also, while we are normally pretty good about recycling and composting, it has definitely made just throwing everything in the big garbage can less tempting when we’re feeling tired or just plain lazy.

    I’m proud to say, we now use the smallest outdoor garbage can that our city provides — and we’re one of only a very few houses in our neighborhood to do so.

  3. Mrs Green says:

    @maisie dalziel: 😀 yes I remember you taping up the bin LOL! It’s weird, our bin is still there, hanging on the door, taking up all that room and pulling the cupboard door off its hinges. I should get around to removing it. Perhaps that would be a good celebration for our one year anniversary!

    @Meg from FruWiki: Hi Meg, welcome to the site! Thank you for sharing your story about the bin.
    I bet a wonderful side effect of you showing friends and family how easy it is to recycle is that you inspire others to think about their actions too. Well done on using a small bin; that’s excellent. There is no scheme like that here – we all have the same size bin regardless of what we throw away.
    Do you have reduced rates because you have a small bin? Is there any incentive for you like that?

  4. Yes, we have reduced rates for smaller bins. It’s just a few bucks, so not enough incentive for most people, but my husband and I are trying to save every dollar on stuff we can unless it’s something we really care about — and we really don’t like extra garbage, so that was an easy decision!

    I think one of the biggest incentives for us is that the bin is green, whereas the others are black. There is a bit of smug joy when we roll that out to the curb 😀

    Believe it or not, we started using it when we had a roommate with a young child and a boyfriend who stayed over here almost whenever her daughter wasn’t. Fortunately, they weren’t big into waste, either. But now it’s nice that we can miss the occasional weekly pickup.

    How large is the bin y’all get?

    Here’s our choices for curbside pickup:
    20 gallon 1 bag (kitchen-sized) $13.21
    35 gallon 2 bags $17.18
    64 gallon 5 bags $21.14
    96 gallon 7 bags $26.42

  5. This is a good one. We still have tiny kitchen bins under the sink, but we removed the garbage bins from the rest of the house and made the recycling bins right out in the open. It’s definitely easier to recycle than it is to trash something. I also really like not having to empty numerous bins all around the house.

  6. Mrs Green says:

    @Meg from FruWiki: Loving your green bin story, Meg LOL! Our bins are 240 litres (52 gallons) I think, in most areas. Around here, we do no have those, we still provide our own old fashioned dustbins, which are, I’m not sure, half a wheelie bin at most, I would think.
    It sounds like you have huge bins over there !

    @Jen from clean bin: Hey Jen, always good to see you. Like you, I enjoy not having to gather bins from around the various rooms in the home. I remember the panic on rubbish collection day when I lived at home. It was sometimes my job to go into all the rooms to gather them up. I don’t miss that!

  7. I’ve said to Dh I’m going to remove the bin completely from the under counter area it is in, (space where a fridge should go).

    I would ideally like to put a pull out unit (like a butchers block) there so it gives extra worktop space when baking etc., but with still room for the very small box I’m now using for the non-descript plastic.

  8. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Maisie, have you moved the bin yet or was it an initial threat?! What was DH’s response?
    The pull out unit sounds a great idea; any way to create more work surface gets my vote 🙂

  9. It was a threat, lol!!; but I caught DS1 putting something which should have been recycled into it Thursday night, I initially got the usual 14 yr old response(can’t be bothered), but then when I said I was going to remove it he said go ahead it will make it easier.

    So I will be sorting that this week, the boys are on half term hols for the week and I have no work so my plan will come to fruision, I just have to find another small “plastic” washable box for anything they aren’t sure on, so this can be easily dealt with as well.(read plastic biscuit box which I kept for putting cakes in)

    DH thinks the extra work surface will be a good idea, as although he doesn’t do much cooking he does like room when he does.

  10. Kate says:

    Great idea! Nothing makes you more aware of your waste than having to walk it outside.

    Since I started composting food waste my trash is much smaller and super light. I think I may have to consider moving the trash can out altogether. I can just see the looks when friends are over and need to throw something away.

    Guest: “Where’s the trash?
    Me: “Oh, why that’s outside.”
    Guest: “Huh?”

  11. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Kate, welcome to the site. I think moving the bin out is the next step. We have that look with friends too, but you know, these conversations all help to plant seeds and in the end they all get it – food waste in the compost, other stuff in the recycling area ….

  12. Jane says:

    My vote too is for no big freestanding bin in the kitchen. It is just like having another person standing in there and it makes it more difficult to reduce and recycle if you have one.

    I have two small rectangular bins under the sink (used to be pull out) and a rectangular food waste bin (the big Council one – I don’t use a small caddy for transferring). After three years I ran out of space in the wormery so when the Council started a food collection I opted in. What we need is some kind of community composting but sadly I haven’t the time or energy to do anything about it One small bin is for unrecyclable wrappers etc and the other for clean recyclables. On recycling day I can put these recyclables into the green box stored outside (no room inside). I’m thinking of using one of those sausages for reusing carrier bags for recyclable plastic bags instead but haven’t got there yet. I’d really rather not have them at all.

    The outside metal dustbin (at the boundary of the property) is lined with a black bin bag and any unrecyclable wrappers etc are tipped from small under cupboard bin. Hopefully (usually) the dustbin men ignore the black bin bag unless it is tied closed giving me lots of weeks’ rubbish to one black bin bag. (I did laugh when I saw your lone carrier bag awaiting collection – been there done that!! Hence my new system.)

  13. Mrs Green says:

    @Jane: Hi Jane, that sounds like a great system which is clearly working for you and your household. We now have zero plastic carrier bags in the house and our stash of reusable bags are all stored inside the biggest bag which hangs on a hook in the porch – this cuts down the number of times we arrive at the shop without a bag 😉
    How many weeks do you think you’ll be able to go without having your bin emptied?

  14. Teresa says:

    I threw out my kitchen bin and put it out for recycling this week. It was fifteen years old and getting harder to clean and was a bit chipped so I was worried about bacteria in the crevasses. Most of my waste goes into the green bags for recycling, the food waste bin for composting by the council and my own worm bin. I keep a small bag for other rubbish and have put it in a paper carrier bag to throw out into the black wheelie bin as I have several of these.

    I have so much clutter that I need to get rid of and a neighbour is interested in a few items. Much of it has come from my father’s house as my mother died a few years’ ago and she used them. Other stuff is because of unwanted presents and other people’s clutter dumped on me. I’ve said ‘no’ to other people’s clutter but it’s much harder to say ‘no’ to presents at Christmas and on birthdays often bought thoughtlessly by shopaholics. They include DVD’s of films I’ve already seen, a pair of hair straighteners when I already have a pair, CD’s which I don’t have time to listen to, large coffee table books I don’t have room on my book shelves for, a navy fleece jacket when I already have one, a black fleece scarf and toiletries full of chemicals when I prefer Lush or Neal’s Yard. I feel like I’m being bought and I don’t waste my money reciprocating though I did at first. The thing is I tell myself that I don’t owe them anything in return for those presents and if they come with strings attached then I can refuse to see them. I read in one of Dorothy Rowe’s book that when presented with a gift which you can either refuse the gift or take it with no duty to reciprocate or feel that you owe the giver something in return and there must be no guilt on your part as you didn’t ask to be given that gift.

  15. Teresa Lewis says:

    @Jane: We have food waste collections in Cardiff too but it’s seen as a bit controversial as the collected food waste is sent to Derby for reprocessing but it’s better than nothing. I saw a programme on television about a food waste collection and a silly woman was putting the peelings and other food waste in a caddy by the cooker and then into a food waste bin lined with a compostable bag and then took the bag and placed it in the green bin by the kitchen door. She was just making work for herself. My peelings, egg shells and other food waste goes straight into the food waste bin which I keep under the kitchen top where I do my food preparation. Since the green wheelie bin is two flights of stairs down as I live in a second floor flat I put it out twice a week otherwise.

    As for the plastic carrier bags I seem to get mainly small ones now and have been even using them for rubbish that can’t be composted or recycled as well as paper carrier bags which aren’t lacquered. It’s been a few years’ since I’ve been refusing them and it was quite daunting at first as some shop assistants were a bit taken aback when I pulled the item I bought out of the bag it was put into but since customers all over the country were doing the same there was pressure on the store management to train them to ask customers first if they wanted a bag.

  16. Mrs Green says:

    @Teresa: It will be interesting to see if your landfill waste decreases even more, Teresa, after getting rid of the convenience of the bin. I hope the decluttering is going well.

  17. Poppy says:

    @Mrs Green:

    Our waste bin went years ago when we had a dog who insisted on resorting it for us every time she was left alone! We moved onto a carrier bag hooked onto a cupboard door, but even that has proved to be too big over the last year or so. We now use empty bread bags with a hole through the side to attach to the cupboard handle. These usually last at least 2 weeks.

    Like others that have posted here, I do laugh at some of the responses I get when I’m asked where my bin is! One colleague, who to be fair to him, does try with his recycling, just says I’m not normal! I take that as a compliment 🙂

  18. Mrs Green says:

    @Poppy: Loving then dog story, Poppy; what is it with dogs? Actually they make great landfill sites of their own LOL! I love the look on people’s faces when they look for the bin too 😉

  19. Alex says:

    Our local council recycles so much we don’t need a waste bin really! They take pretty much all packaging and cooked and uncooked food. We have our waste bin outside and it only gets taken out every few months. Unfortunately i’m moving to a city with a less awesome recycling scheme so i’m looking into reducing a lot!

  20. Jane says:

    @Mrs Green: Several months – but it varies more on when the crew decide to empty it (tied or untied). I complained when it was untied and there was nothing but a couple of ceral bar wrappers in it and they took it! Funnily enough the crew do now pick up the lone carrier bag that neighbours sometimes have hanging from their gates. How things change! Only a couple of properties now have people who can’t seem to get to a bag a week – you’d think they’d have noticed how odd their profligate habits look wouldn’t you?

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