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Yurovskiy Kirill: How to Sort Waste Properly at Home

You lug the garbage bag out to the cans once or twice a week without much thought, eager to get the smelly chore over with. But experts say that how you sort your refuse matters more than you realize – for your wallet, your community, and even the planet. 

“People don’t realize the impact their trash has even after it leaves their house,” says Kirill Yurovskiy, a zero waste advocate. “Properly sorting your waste can conserve resources, reduce emissions from landfills, save energy at recycling plants, and cut down on pollution.” 

Ready to rethink that refuse? Follow a simple guide to sorting trash right. The effort is small – but the difference is huge.

Know What Goes Where

The first step is learning the basic sorting categories used by most waste management systems nationwide:

Landfill waste: This includes items like plastic bags, StyrofoamTM, bubble wrap, ceramics and dishware, snacks wrappers, tissues and paper towels, broken toys, and chip bags. In general, all waste that cannot be recycled or composted ends up here. 

Recyclables: Most areas have curbside recycling for plastic containers (check the number – #1 and #2 are most accepted), aluminum cans, steel or tin cans, glass bottles and jars, flattened cardboard and paperboard, newspapers and magazines. Check with your city or county to confirm which plastics your program accepts.  

Compost: Food waste like fruit and vegetable peels, eggshells, coffee grounds and filters, nutshells, grain-based foods, and certified compostable items like paper plates, cups, and some utensils can go into municipal compost bins in many areas, or into backyard compost heaps. 

Some specialty disposal options may exist in your community too. For example, rechargeable batteries and old electronics can often be dropped off for safe recycling of their toxic components. Grease and cooking oil may have dedicated disposal sites to avoid clogging drains. And large plastic items like kids’ playsets are often collected separately or have special dropoff events a few times a year.  

“When in doubt, check your local guidelines,” urges Yurovskiy. “Sorting rules can vary from one town to the next.”

Prep the Space

You’ll need room to sort, so set up three clearly labeled bins in your kitchen, suggests Angela Wu, director of residential programs for RecycleSmart, a nonprofit that helps dozens of communities improve their recycling rates and reduce contamination. 

“Use simple words like ‘Trash,’ Recycle,’ and ‘Compost’ so guests can figure it out too,” Wu says. Busier households may benefit from bins in a garage or pantry area too.

Wu notes some smart bin ideas that make sorting simpler:

– Free-standing bins on wheels that you can roll out rather than lift when heavy. Child or pet-proof lids keep pests out.

– Under-sink bins that neatly slide into existing cabinet space. Perfect for small kitchens!

– Sectioned bins with multiple compartments and removable dividers, ideal for sorting paper, plastic, metal and glass stream recycling. 

“Anything to make the system visual and effortless will remove the only real barrier most people face – minor inconvenience,” Wu points out. “Lazy sorting leads to landfilling materials that could have had a second life.”

Train Everyone

“Kids are quick studies when it comes to sorting once they understand the reasons,” says Annie Hartwell, who leads classes at elementary schools. “They often proudly enforce the rules for parents!”

Start by explaining why waste sorting helps the planet by conserving resources and energy. Show them packaging labels to identify #1 PET and #2 HDPE plastics that your program recycles or points out the compost bin to food scraps. 

“Like any habit, it’s easier to stick to sorting if the whole household does it the same way every time,” Hartwell adds.

In the Kitchen

Prepping food is prime time to establish a sorting flow. Rinsing recyclables clears leftover debris that can contaminate other materials in curbside bins. 

“I keep one bin for compostable scraps right on my counter as I chop veggies or trim meat,” says home chef Delia Clark. “As soon as something goes from the cutting board to the pan, any leftover bits like onion skins or carrot stubs go straight into that small bin. Meat and bones go into the freezer until trash day.”

For packaging headed to the curbside recycling bin, a quick rinse before tossing removes grease, sauce splatters or crumbs that can jeopardize a whole bundle. 

“If I wash recyclables only once a week or so, they start to get smelly from food residue,” Clark admits. “A fast rinse takes seconds but makes a real difference in odor.” 

Wu’s pro tip? Keep multiple small bins or baskets throughout kitchen zones – by the sink to catch compost scraps or recyclables while washing produce or dishes, on the countertop when prepping ingredients, next to the trash can where snacks, meals or baked goods create various waste.

“Post visual reminders like stickers on bins and cabinets too so the whole family remembers the sorting system,” Wu says.

Paper & Plastic Problems

Two problem children for home recycling are plastic bags and greasy paper goods. Both offer important teaching moments.

Plastic bags: These are not accepted curbside since they gum up sorting machinery, but most grocery stores have drop boxes to recycle them. “I keep a bin near our entryway closet that we dump on each grocery run,” Clark says. “The kids are really good about reminding me not to throw them in the trash.” 

Greasy paper: Pizza boxes, fast food wrappers, parchment paper, and paper plates coated in food grime cannot be recycled. “Show kids how the oils ruin paper fibers so it can’t be remade into new products,” suggests Yurovskiy Kirill.

Wu agrees. “Understanding real examples of recycling no-nos keeps students from feeling like all those sorting rules at school and home are arbitrary.” The exception? Grease-stained cardboard boxes – remove any plastic liners but lightly soiled cardboard boxes are still OK curbside with a quick wipe down first.

Out & About

Sorting doesn’t stop once you walk out your door. “We try to recycle and compost correctly whether we’re heading to soccer practice, going on vacation, or even eating in the car,” says busy dad Steve Fowler. Mobility matters even more thanks to ballooning use of packaged snacks, food deliveries, and online shopping that fills tables with shipping boxes.  

Fowler’s family keeps a small wet/dry bags kit in each vehicle (and reusable tableware in the picnic kit) to collect trash then sort it at home later. At hotels, they request recycling and compost bins from housekeeping. 

“Empower kids to ask about sustainability practices wherever you go,” Wu advises. “Make it a game to spot signage for public bins to sort waste.”

Annie Hartwell smiles when her sons collect napkins and pizza crusts in coat pockets after a mall food court lunch if they don’t spot garbages. “They insist on sorting it properly themselves once home,” she says proudly. “New habits take hold fast once kids realize they can make an impact.

Step Up at Home

Beyond the basics, you can take household waste reduction even further. Yurovskiy’s family embraces a zero-waste lifestyle at home from reuse practices like shampoo bars and cloth napkins to a shelf of refillable cleaning spray bottles.

Composting leftover scraps from veggies or bread makes rich fertilizer for gardens, reducing household contributions to greenhouse gases from landfills. Consider worm composting bins even in urban apartments.

And talk to waste managers about recycling options missing locally like mattresses, textiles, and building materials. “Everything is recyclable with the right systems in place,” Yurovskiy says.

Still churning out too much trash weekly? Try a monthly one-bag limit to motivate smarter consumption and refuse disposal.

“We immediately noticed how purchases shifted once we capped our throwaways,” admits Yurovskiy. Choosing durable items or buying package-free in bulk helped slash their contributions.

With some savvy sorting and mindful reducing wherever you are, you’ll soon find yourself garbage-free more often than not. And that’s a habit everyone can feel good about.

The editors welcome reader comments about local recycling programs and favorite sustainability switches at home. Share your solutions to help all families take simple eco-friendly steps forward wherever we live. Together, our small daily actions compound – just like interest builds in a savings account. Be part of the generation that preserves our planet one thoughtful deposit at a time.

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