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Common items that can be recycled or composted (but usually aren't)

February 22, 2019


​I am often asked how I manage to have so little garbage at the end of 2 weeks between 2 people, and have been wanting to share this blog for some time, so I'm so excited to share with you! Lessening my garbage has been such a learning experience and though I do not know it all, getting this conversation started is important and I hope I am able to help even 1 person make a change in their disposal efforts. 


My answer to how we have so little garbage is simple; we find a place for everything and put a little extra effort (and I do mean little) into making sure things get to where they're supposed to be. We have one small garbage can under our kitchen sink which we typically fill to about 1/4 full every 2 weeks. We removed the option of a garbage can from our bathroom, bedroom and office, and have honestly not been bothered by it for a second. We compost things like cotton swabs, tissues and makeup pads, and simply bring those to the compost receptacle under our kitchen sink as well, which then gets emptied into our larger curb side green bin periodically.



Did you know that about 80% of what we throw away can actually be recycled or composted?? Think about that number for a second. If everything has a place, that cuts our garbage output by EIGHTY PERCENT! That's huge. Now think if everyone (or even most people) did that. Once we know what can be recycled, composted and diverted, it's actually not hard at all. With some initial planning and a few reminders, you too can cut your landfill waste by 80%. And that's incredible. Once I realized this I had to refrain myself from digging through people's garbages and pulling out the recyclables...but that's a different topic...



Keep in mind that different areas will likely have different rules depending on facilities and capabilities, so be sure to check with your local waste management provider (search "waste management + your city"). For example, we have to have a separate bin for glass and make sure it's labelled or else they won't take it, and my hometown doesn't even pick up glass, it has to go to a depot, so make sure you do a quick website browse or make a quick call if you're unsure. I'm lucky enough to live in Victoria, BC, an area where municipalities typically have a great system, but if you would like some more info on your local area, I'd be happy to do some research with you.


Everyday items that can be recycled or composted (but usually aren't)


  • aluminum foil (recycling bin)

  • aluminum plates - takeout, pie plates (recycling bin)

  • bamboo/wooden chopsticks (compost)

  • bottle caps (collect in a tin can first, they are too small to be put in individually and may clog machines)

  • candy and snack wrappers (take to depot)

  • cardboard packaging - cereal boxes, granola bar boxes (curb side paper recycling)

  • CDs/DVDs (take to depot)

  • cotton makeup pads (compost - ensure 100% cotton)

  • cotton Swabs/Qtips (compost - ensure 100% cotton & wood or cardboard stick)

  • food scraps (compost)

  • mail/envelopes (remove the plastic window and add to curb side paper recycling. Throw out plastic window)

  • paper towel and toilet paper rolls (curb side paper recycling)

  • pens (bundle them and drop at your local Staples! Call first to ensure your location is participating)

  • pet food bags (get a box and send back to TerraCycle. If you buy Open Farm products like us, you can do this for Free. Click here to find out how)

  • pizza boxes (compost or curb side cardboard recycling)

  • razors (collect in a tin can first, they are too small to be put in individually and may clog machines)

  • rubber bands (I keep these in a jar for random projects but they can be donated to schools)

  • soft plastic - bags and packaging i.e. bread bags and overwrap (take to depot or London Drugs)

  • styrofoam (take to depot)

  • tea bags (compost - remove staple)

  • wine corks (take to a reCORK location)




The Bottle Depot - soft plastics, overwrap, foam packaging etc...

Surprising things you can recycle at London Drugs




Recyclopedia App



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