Setting Up a Kitchen Recycling Center

When it came time to design a place for our garbage can under the sink, we knew it wouldn’t be simple.  With 10 seperate ways that we had to sort our trash in Germany, we did the best thing we could think of and wandered into a furniture store.  We started examining their kitchen displays (this is also how we learned to build European cabinets with German hardware).  Five dream kitchens later, we found what we needed:


We quickly snapped a photo and headed to the local mom and pop shop to tell them what we wanted.  We’re painfully loyal to the little local guys.  Their goal wasn’t to sell us the most expensive items to make their bosses proud like in the chain store where we were looking, and they were knocking down prices (like 10% off our countertop) since we keep coming back.  They also pointed me to a super affordable German class and other city secrets only a native could know.

Here’s the system that we came up with:


under sink

1. The white bucket is for compost and organic matter.  It’s the only thing that ever starts to smell, so we don’t have to take our trash out much.  But this little guy?  Oh he gets emptied All The Time.

2. The gray bin in the back is for trash.  It takes forever to fill that bin.

3. The bin in the front is for general recycling.  If we lived in a small German town, the city wouldn’t accept our recycling because we’re not using yellow bags.  Since we just put our recycling in a huge yellow bin behind our building, we’re sticking with bags of one color, and it happens to be black.  Shhh.

Why So Much Recycling?

Companies in Germany are required to pay set fees for every piece of trash that their products create.  This means that products have as little packaging as possible.  Tape refills don’t come in redundant cardboard boxes.  Sliced cheese doesn’t have unnecessary plastic or paper inserts between each slice.  You get your product; you don’t get excess packaging.  Is that not the coolest way to motivate business to care about the excess they create?

These companies have another option.  They can pay to fund the nation’s recycling program.  I’d say about 99.9% of the things we see can be recycled.  If plastic for packaging can be thinner, products can be put into paper instead of plastic, or anything else, you can bet it happens.  There are no bright blue laundry soap containers here.

We just look for this symbol on our garbage and throw it into our front bin:


4. Well almost everything goes in that bin.  Paper products also have this symbol.  We’re still looking for a basket to collect them above the glass.

5. Glass has this symbol, too.  (You see why I swear you need a PhD to master German garbage disposal?)  You can’t put glass in your recycle bin.  You haul it to the store to get your deposit back or you take it to glass recycling bins around the city to sort the glass by color.  So we have a place to put all of our glass to the left of the dishwasher in the open shelves.

glass recycling

So we’ve just about figured this system out.  I think.  We really didn’t want to clutter our kitchen with all our recycling bins.  Now the only problem is batteries.  I still have a few in my purse that we need to recycle at the hardware store.

(Images by Katie for Making This Home)