life in a tiny apartment.

July 25, 2012

Tip #23: Take out your recycling.

i know we’ve talked about garbage already. and two weeks ago we talked about cutting down on bathroom supplies to reduce waste and improve sanity, but it occured to me this week that we hadn’t yet covered garbage’s twin sister, recycling.

the theme is obviously the same: get rid of it. but the process can be somewhat different.

picture this scene: i’m making dinner. chez moi this means copious amounts of milk, butter, and heavy cream. let’s say i’m whipping up a heavy macaroni and cheese with a bechamel sauce. just the thing for this weather we’ve been having…

to begin, i look for butter. the butter dish is empty and so i wrestle the contents of my fridge until i find the cardboard box of butter hanging out by the jar of pickles i’d forgotten about. one stick left! i unwrap the butter and plop it into its much more refined glass house. recycling rules 101 say i can’t recycle that shiny wax paper covering the butter, but i now have an empty box. cardboard box #1.

i get the butter melting and add a few tablespoons of flour, and it’s time for the milk. whoops, just a little bit left. i add it slowly until nary a drip comes out and now i’m left with cardboard box #2.

my magical mystery assistant has been grating cheese and doing other useful things, like putting a pot of water on to boil. it’s roiling away, time to add the pasta. we’re hungry so we go for the entire pound. cardboard box #3.

all of this cooking has made me a little thirsty, so i decide to finish off the last of that rosé that’s been tempting me all day. sorry assistant, just enough for one. we’ve got bottle #1, item to recycle #4. i’m practically floating in recyclables.

what to do?

recycling is unruly. differently sized boxes and bottles and cans don’t smush neatly into a cabinet. in a tiny apartment, there’s no room for an elaborate recycling holding area and this means the stuff is just hanging out in plain sight. of course, i’ve been in a fair few apartments that are not at all small where the recycling has long overflowed its once tidy compartment.

for me, there are only two options: 1). make a quick break out the front door, down the stairs and to the side of the road where our building’s recycling bins stand guard, or 2). neatly arrange various items in a spot near the door and off the counter, to be recycled after dinner. if you live five flights up, consider devoting a canvas bag to the purpose of collecting these items. hang it on your doorknob and take it out in the morning. i promise you, clearing the clutter is like being able to breathe a deeper breath.

now to ponder how we limit all this waste in the first place. anyone have a cow?

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  • Reply Meg July 25, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    i absolutely know what you mean! we have just a little recycling bin lined with a reusable bag, and it seems to overflow in no time flat! then we're left with juice containers, wine bottles, etc etc just sitting under our sink, waiting to be corralled. this is where the reusable bag that lines our bin comes in handy… it is much larger than the bin itself so when we pull it out there is magically enough room for these overflow scoundrels to fit inside. one of my favourite things is to wish that the recycling would get taken out as i rush around getting breakfast ready in the morning, and then when i come home from work, poof! it is gone, thanks to my phd student husband who works from home and loves me very much 🙂

  • Reply Alexa July 25, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    "anyone have a cow?" haha!

    i, too, live in a teensy space (on the 4th floor! and have wrestled with where to stash recyclables. a canvas bag does just the trick!

    now…care to share your mac n cheese recipe?

    • Reply Erin July 26, 2012 at 1:31 pm

      glad to–it's super simple. i'll make it once the weather actually cools a bit!

  • Reply Tara July 25, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    I enjoy your blog so much. Perhaps we will eventually go back to glass milk bottles that can be re-used over and over? Of course they would pile up as well until the milk man came!

  • Reply Rachel July 25, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    I got my milk in a glass bottle last week, which makes me feel more virtuous, but is a bigger pain, because I have to keep it on the counter until I can take it back to the grocery store to return it for re-use. It's hard to win.

    • Reply Erin July 26, 2012 at 1:33 pm

      yes. the glass bottle dilemma. in north carolina we drank glass bottled milk exclusively! we get them here sometimes, and in their defense they are pretty to have hanging around. sadly, the milk that comes in them around here is a lot more expensive. too rich for our blood these days.

  • Reply Kari July 25, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    The only (partial) solution I can think of is to buy more things in bulk with your reusable cloth bags. This would at least eliminate the macaroni box.

    • Reply Erin July 26, 2012 at 1:33 pm

      so tough to find bulk pasta!

  • Reply rebecca July 25, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    we're on the 4th floor so bottles get piled up by the front door and taken out in the morning.

  • Reply Sarah July 26, 2012 at 12:55 am

    We live in a house, and we STILL struggle to keep the kitchen clear of recyclables. My husband doesn't notice clutter and it drives me insane!!!

    • Reply Kari July 26, 2012 at 5:19 pm

      Boy, do I hear you. I have a husband exactly like that.

    • Reply Txell July 28, 2012 at 9:50 pm

      My boyfriend also don't see clutter…

  • Reply ambika anand July 26, 2012 at 2:55 am

    hahaha i love this! we have a brown bag in the corner of our kitchen that collects all recyclables until its full. then we take it down and sort it.. kinda obnoxious, but hey at least we aren't trashing it!

  • Reply Susanne K July 26, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    "anyone have a cow." lol. You don't even know how many times I have said that around here. Canvas bag sounds like just the thing thanks!

  • Reply LL July 26, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    I, too, am always amazed at how quickly recycling builds up! Our apartment has valet pickup for plastic, glass, and paper, but not cardboard. We collect plastic and glass in a plastic dish bin that lives under the sink, paper in a trashcan sized bin that lives at the end of the kitchen counter, and cardboard in a giant green plastic tub, which I take to work (with the approval of my supervisor!) to recycle there when it gets unruly. We order things online often, and the cardboard box situation gets quickly out of hand, since, as you say, they don't play nicely together. Whew.

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