We all know that recycling is an important part of reducing our carbon footprint, but it’s not always straightforward. Between knowing what goes in what bin, making sure it’s all clean and suitable, and knowing when it gets picked up, it can be difficult to keep on top of.

It can be doubly difficult if you live somewhere without your own dedicated kerbside pickup. If you live on the top floor of a block of flats, you don’t want to be up and down the stairs all the time – but you also don’t want masses of plastic, glass and cans all around the place.

We know that recycling in a small space can sometimes be challenging, but no need to ‘bin’ the idea! Changeworks volunteer Lisa Heywood shares her top tips for making recycling easier and for storing it in a flat or apartment.

Think outside the box

Recycling in your flat doesn’t necessarily have to be stored in huge storage boxes. You could use anything, from a pedal bin or plastic crate, to containers or bags that hang inside cupboards. Bags are great for small spaces, as they are only as big as what you put in them. You could use a sturdy tote bag, an old shopping bag. 

While you are deciding what type of storage container to use, also consider where will be most convenient to put it. Sometimes this is in the kitchen, on the countertop or in a cupboard, or beside the front door where it’ll be easy to grab on the way out. Be creative! It can go in bags on hooks (on a door, cupboard or wall – use stick-on hooks that don’t leave marks), in stacked boxes or crates, on a shelf or in a drawer.

A place for everything

In Leith there are five types of bin on, or near, your street to collect waste and recycling – but you might not need five boxes inside your flat. If space is tight, why not combine mixed recycling, paper and glass into one bag and sort it straight into the street bins. Just make sure everyone in the household knows the plan! Download our handy ‘what goes in each bin’ poster and put it next to your recycling to help keep everyone right.

Edinburgh Council gives away free kitchen caddies for collecting your food waste recycling but you could also use an old yoghurt or ice cream tub to save space. Order your caddy online or collect one from McDonald Road Library.

Now that you’ve got recycling sorted, you can probably downsize your rubbish bin too.

Save yourself a trip

I will fully own up to being someone who avoids taking the bins out. So here’s my favourite tip of all: whatever container you decide to use, line it with a reusable bag (we just use a sturdy supermarket bag). This way its easy to carry the bag of recycling on your way out of the house, and once empty you can pop them in your pocket or your day bag and be on your way – saving yourself a trip up and down the stairs!

Clean and fresh

Don’t forget to rinse your recycling before it goes in the bin. It doesn’t need to be brand new, but this will keep things smelling fresh, as well as making sure the recycling is high quality so it can be properly recycled.

Food waste recycling is easy, and is the most important recycling to do to avoid releasing lots of climate-changing greenhouse gases. When it comes to food waste you can now use any bag to collect food scraps (paper or plastic bags including cereal packets, bread bags or old shopping bags). This is also the one kind of waste you must leave in the bag, which makes the street bins easier and cleaner for staff to empty. If you choose to use the thin biodegradable bags, you can avoid any leaks by carrying it in the caddy to the street bin.

Give it some style

If you want to keep your bins incognito, there are lots of creative ways to make your recycling space look stylish, like using patterned or coloured boxes. Alternatively you could store your containers in a cupboard or drawer, or use a pedal bin with a lid. If you’re using bags you could use tote bags with bold designs, and there are a multitude of stylish food caddies available on the internet!

Other Changeworks resources to help you reduce, reuse, repair and recycle:

More about the services we offer organisations, communities and individuals to reduce waste and live low carbon lives.