ByHaley Shapley

Jun 24, 2014
Bathroom Solutions

While 95 percent of consumers recycle in the home, only about half do so in rooms beyond the kitchen, according to the 2014 Care to Recycle Study. That means they’re missing plenty of opportunities — particularly in the bathroom, which is filled with plastic and paper goods — to recycle the products they’re using.

Why are recycling rates outside of the kitchen so low, and what can be done to raise them? It’s all about tackling the problems and solutions one at a time.

“Consumers know recycling is the right thing to do, but there are things standing in the way of making recycling a consistent behavior,” says Paulette Frank, vice president of sustainability at Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc., which sponsored the study. “It all comes down to creating an environment that encourages recycling, not just in the kitchen, but in other rooms in the house where it is often overlooked.”

Problem: No nearby bin.

With most recycling bins residing in the kitchen, it’s just not convenient to take products from the bathroom to the nearest bin, which could be on the other side of the house. Nearly one-fifth of people would recycle more if they had better or more convenient recycling bins throughout the house.

Solution: Get a small wastebasket to put in your bathroom next to the one you already have for trash. Once you have it in place, it will be much easier to remember to recycle — seeing it sitting there, you won’t be tempted to chuck that finished shampoo bottle in the trash anymore. Empty it into your larger recycling bin once it’s full. It’s a little step that makes a big difference in convenience.

(Want to earn a bin instead? Recyclebank is offering 2.5-gallon Care to Recycle bins, redeemable for 1,000 points. Points are earned by taking small recycling-related actions.)

Problem: Not knowing if an item is recyclable.

Twenty-eight percent of survey respondents said they only recycle items they know to be recyclable — and don’t put in the extra effort to find out if something they’re not sure about can be recycled.

Solution: Before you buy a product, look at the label to see if it can be recycled in your area. If you buy things you know can be tossed into the blue bin, it will take the guesswork out of what to do later. Plus, by supporting companies that make recyclable products and the recyclability of their products clear, you’ll be using your dollars to encourage other companies to do the same.

Problem: Wondering whether recycling really makes a difference.

Fourteen percent of people would be more likely to recycle if they understood how recycled materials are used, and 12 percent would recycle more with explanation of how recycling impacts the environment.

Solution: With any luck, companies and communities will begin to provide more information on the benefits of recycling. “Consumers are clearly calling for a collaborative approach that will be a win for them and a win for the environment,” says Liz Gorman, senior vice president of Sustainable Business Practices at Cone Communications, which partnered with Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. in creating the Care to Recycle Study. “Companies and communities need to work together to provide solutions that make recycling less confusing and more convenient so consumers can do their part.”

In the meantime, do research on your own. Earth911 is teeming with articles about how recycling makes a difference, and there are companies out there that provide information about how their products are made from recycled materials.

Problem: Not knowing how to prepare bottles to be recycled.

It can be confusing to know how to best get something from the bathroom ready to be recycled. Does a shampoo bottle need to be rinsed out? Do you have to get every last bit of lotion out of a bottle before you toss it in the bin?

Solution: Use our recycling guide to find out what the recyclers in your area require, but in general, a quick rinse is a good idea. If you can’t get rid of all the residue, don’t sweat it — those bottles can usually still be recycled, provided they’re accepted by your recycling program.

For more tips on how to recycle items from the bathroom, check out Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc.’s Care to Recycle campaign on Tumblr, which is full of information on recycling everything from shampoo bottles to toilet paper rolls.

Editor’s Note: Earth911 partners with many industries, manufacturers and organizations to support its Recycling Directory, the largest in the nation, which is provided to consumers at no cost. Care to Recycle is one of these partners.

By Haley Shapley

Haley Shapley is based in Seattle, where recycling is just as cool as Macklemore, walking in the rain without an umbrella, and eating locally sourced food. She writes for a wide range of publications, covering everything from sustainability to fitness to travel. Read more of her work here.