Zero Budget Project: Waste & Recycle


When we moved into our house, there were naturally a million boxes everywhere. We soon got those under control, but the regular recycling was not. Since the island in our kitchen wasn’t in use with bar stools, we just stacked all of our recycling there. And yes, it looked absolutely awful.

I happened to be at a farewell party for a friend when I spied the most beautiful garbage can that took care of both waste and recycling. Of course it was simple human. Those trash cans are really well designed. But I’m not about to pay near $175 for one or even $90 for something similar. I’m sure they’re worth it, but I’d much rather that cash go towards furniture we really need right now (coffee tables, rugs, etc). So the plan to buy a sexy trash can was nixed.

I eventually came across these bins at Ikea. They’re simple enough and sit next to one another nicely. They also happen to fit our little garbage nook and budget perfectly ($26 for the pair). We’ve had them for a few months, and our system is working really well. We don’t have lingering recycling (unless it’s the big sort, in which case it’ll never fit any bin besides the giant can outside). And we actually recycle instead of hide our recycling items in the trash can.

The only problem with these cans was that they were not labeled accordingly. Items would usually get mis-categorized when company was over, but that’s easy enough to remedy. I designed and cut out some vinyl stickers to attach to the bin. BAM! DONE.

I’m sure grubby waste and messy hands will gum up these stickers sometime in the future, but they’re not too hard to replace.

How do you manage your recycling if you’re not taking every recycle item outside to the large bin?

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    1. Juliette says:

      Here in Germany we have 5 ways to regularly dispose of trash. Since throwing everything out in one bag quickly gets expensive (we pay for that stuff to get picked up) + you can get fined if they find recyclables in there, there’s added motivation to recycle, lol.

      General waste + compost containers are in a tall pull-out drawer under the kitchen sink. Paper is in an Ikea bin like yours out in the corner of the kitchen. Glass goes in a cardboard box in the pantry. Packaging (plastics, cans, etc.) goes in a container in the corner of our pantry/storage room.

    2. We are really lucky with our recycling system. We are given 5 different bins from the council. Three are big wheelie bins that sit outside for waste, paper and cardboard recycling and garden waste that can be composted. We then have a smaller inside bin for glass and one for plastic and aluminim. We have those two bins in our pantry and two bins in a slide out cupboard for waste and paper which get emptied when full into the bigger bins outside. It sounds like a lot of hassle, but it really gets habitual very fast and it means we know as much of our waste is being recyled as possible. Our council has a great recycling record because of these bins.

      Oh and I love your vinyl labels, you could definitely sell those!

    3. Virginia says:

      I love this! I have the same problem of guest misplacing items. Your lettering is always so great — would you consider posting a download or template like you did for “Hello There” sign?

    4. Tamara says:

      We have this $ affair that we got at Costco;jsessionid=4c634308ac0fb8f951bc3a8a981667f1#ip/the-smart-bin-3-compartment-16-gallon-step-trash-and-recycling-bin-stainless-steel/10746118 for similar reason to yours. At the time we had our house up for sale so for aesthetic reasons the bin was worth it and remains so to this day for us IMOP. Your lettering is awesome though! We use two compartments for recycling and one for garbage. We also have a compost pail under the sink for stuff we compost in our garden. Our city recently started collecting green waste too so we still need to figure out a second compost pail solution for food waste the city doesn’t want in regular garbage (like cupcake liners), but won’t break down in our outside compost easily.

    5. Kristie says:

      We currently have our recycling under the sink cabinet, which is not nearly enough space and end up having to empty it multiple times a week.
      These are a GREAT idea and may have to go visit Ikea this weekend! Thanks for the inspiration.

    6. Steph says:

      How did you make those vinyl letters? And what font? They are gorgeous!

    7. Kristin says:

      Lovely! Something about making the mundane pretty just makes me smile these days. I opted for a stainless steel lidded can for garbage and a white plastic open can for recycling. No where near as pretty, but it works.

    8. Melissa says:

      How did you cut the vinyl? I’ve been wanting to make my own lettering for labels, but I don’t know what machine to get to do this. Please advise…


    9. amy h says:

      Uh, I manage it much less creatively. :) We just have an ugly black office trashcan under the sink for recycling. When it is full, I run it out to the big bin in the garage. But under the sink is where we have space, so that’ll do for now.

    10. Haley says:

      Would you mind sharing the font?

    11. Barbara says:

      I think the lettering makes them look even better.

    12. Jacinta says:

      This looks super classy!
      We don’t have room in our kitchen for both rubbish bin and recycling so we have a medium sized green wheelie bin in the laundry. It isn’t too convenient since it isn’t “right there” but it does the job and gets filled up in no time.

    13. Erika says:

      We have two bins underneath the kitchen sink and do have to empty it a few times a week. We have single stream recycling here though so we don’t really have to separate it at all.

    14. Jen says:

      I LOVE this idea. So funny, I have just been searching for a solution to my waste/recycle bins. There really isn’t anything out there that I like! Your solution looks super great!

    15. Maureen says:

      This is a great idea and I LOVE the way you take an inexpensive item and make it look expensive and very neat! I would really love to know what the font is if you would not mind sharing PLEASE? it’s really perfect!! Thanks!

    16. Melissa N. says:

      I was just wondering how did you create the lettering-did you hand letter it and then clean it up in illustrator? If so, could you please, pretty please, do a tutorial on how to do that. I have been trying to turn my lettering into a vector but I can’t get smooth edges.

    17. Virginia says:

      Hello! I assume you did these labels with your Wacom pad and stylus pen? Please let me know if you offer any tutorials or classes (I’ll pay!) for this technique. I’d love to learn. Thank you!

    18. Clair says:

      I have exactly the same bins, and was planning on labelling mine up in a very similar way as well. Great minds!

    19. Elizabeth Morris says:

      I would love to see a tutorial on how to make the vinyl stickers! Please let me know if there is one out there that I am missing! Thanks!

    20. alli says:

      Thank you for this! I too have been looking at the simple human trash cans, but over $100? Yikes! I love what you did with the lettering, so simple and clean, yet totally effective. Beautiful! :)

    21. Kris says:

      What font is that?

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