Feb 12, 2014 ,

By now, most of us are used to the idea of the recycling bin. Whether it’s at home, at work or in public areas like shopping malls, when we see a blue bin or cart with the recycling symbol on it, we know that bin is meant for our paper and bottles/cans.

But what about materials that don’t belong in the recycling bin? Before tossing them in a landfill, consider a new bin for your house: the reuse bin. This is an area where you can store products that will likely have later value, such as hardware (nails/screws, paper clips), packaging materials (packing peanuts, air pillows) and sealers (corks, twisty ties). The reuse bin opportunities are endless.

Here are a few helpful tips for creating your own reuse bin:

1. Decide What to Collect

Your local recycling program chooses what materials to accept based on the local recycling market, and you should do the same when creating a home/office reuse bin. Start asking questions like:

  • What materials am I constantly throwing away?
  • What materials am I constantly in need of?

A great example is plastic bags. Even if you bring your own canvas bags to the grocery store, you probably still have several plastic bags in your kitchen. Instead of throwing them away, put them in the reuse bin instead.

Note: there’s a fine line between creative reuse and hoarding. Only include materials you know you’ll actually use in the future.

2. Pick a Location

You don’t just want a convenient area in the house/office (hint: should be close to the main garbage can), but also a recognizable storage bin. Maybe label a drawer in your kitchen as “Reuse” or designate an old Tupperware container. Labeling will allow others in your family/office to correctly use the bin.

3. Get Organized

Within your reuse bin, include smaller bins to store specific materials. Mint tins are great for storing screws and push pins, while a coffee can is ideal for storing corks or caps. You can even combine your twisty ties into a ball.

4. Search for Inventory

While your reuse bin is ready for new material, you likely have existing products to put in there. Think about all the spare buttons on your shirts and jackets or miscellaneous items in the garage. Starting a reuse bin is a great excuse for spring cleaning.

5. Know When to Throw

For some items, it’s best to dispose of them rather than reuse them. Examples include:

  • Items with Personal Information: Don’t put expired credit cards or medication containers in your reuse bin. You don’t want this information getting in the wrong hands.
  • Hazardous/Expired Products: The reuse bin is not a place for stale bread or burnt out light bulbs, even if you have a reuse option for these items. Safety always trumps sustainability.

Looking for inspired uses for all the products you’re collecting? Check out Earth911’s crafts section for all sorts of cool products you can make from materials around the house.