Household waste management like the professionals

//Household waste management like the professionals

Why should you treat your recycling habits any different than other important tasks? There’s an old saying in traditional management approaches: “What gets measured gets managed”.

Efficient waste management will evolve around 5 steps:

  • Identify

  • Clean

  • Shrink

  • Sort

  • Dispose


Modern consumer goods are marked with symbols to enable us to easily find the right recycling process. Watch out for the symbol for problematic materials. Free extra advice: If you don’t buy it, you don’t need to deal with it when it reaches end of life.

Apart from the Plastic and Glass identification symbols there’s of course paper and cardboard, that is collected and recycled in many regions of the world. So that’s an easy job. But what about textiles and biodegradables? Download the free Infographic to have a handy quick reference for your identification process


Even when you don’t live in a warm climate you might consider a basic cleaning of your collected recycling materials – depending on how long you plant to stack them up. Don’t worry – the recycling company receiving your valuables will anyway clean it again.

If the materials are too contaminated (e.g. pizza carton with lots of oil/grease, PET-Bottle full with sand) you should dispose them in household waste. Contaminated material prevents efficient recycling. Inefficient recycling drives up the costs and makes it less likely that recycled raw material is reused.


Aluminium and Tin cans, PET-Bottles, cardboard and carton boxes can consume considerable space and make it less likely, that you stick to your recycle plan. Nobody likes clutter, right? Compress them as much as possible – but please don’t hurt yourself. Shrinking will not only make better use of the space in your kitchen but also through all the storage and transportation steps until the products reach the recycling factory.

Please check with your local curbside program – some plants can process PET-Bottles only when folded properly or even in their original size.


Now that you identified valuable material, cleaned and shrunk it, you will need an efficient storage strategy. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach here as every setup is different. Depending on your consumption profile you’ll need to adjust. The agile approach from modern economics can help: Start with the end in mind. Depending on your local curbside program, the pickup cycles and your usual consumption start with an approximation of the needed volumes for a temporary space in the kitchen. Why temporary? Well, it’s just an estimation for now, right? We want to test our assumptions for a decent time frame before we create permanent installations.
Depending on your household size and available space you might want to consider a 2-tier storage strategy: Reserve the space for 1 week of materials in the kitchen and reserve enough space for long-term storage (1-2 months) in the garage. Make sure all areas are easily accessible and can be easily cleaned.


If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere with curbside pickup make use of google calendar to remind you to bring out the recyclables. If you tend to be stressed in the mornings you might find it practical to set the reminder for the evening of the day before the pickup.

But what, if you need to bring in the collected goods? Take your climate into consideration when determining the ideal cycle. Are the roads to the collection center open all year round? If yes, settle for a one or two months cycle. Calculate the storage needed for each recycling category based on your cycle and don’t forget to plan some buffers for waste intensive phases like X-Mas or summer BBQ season.

PDCA – Plan, Do, Check, Act

We now have a general idea how and what we want to achieve. That’s the “Plan”-Stage in PDCA. PDCA is at the core of one of the thought schools in classical management. Next you’ll “Do”. Do prepare your space to store your recyclables, Do start to learn which materials are collected in your region, Do process them as described above.

After a few months, you should consciously take the time to review your progress. What works well? What doesn’t? What’s keeping you from improvements? That’s the Check-Phase. In case you catch yourself underperforming, you should find out the root cause and eliminate it. A trusted technique to find a root cause for any problem is the 5W-Technique or the Ishikawa-Diagram. Often, you’ll find the root cause to be something, that was not obvious in the first place and also often once identified, the root cause can be easily fixed.

Not cleaning properly combined with a too long cycle to empty the primary space for PET-Storage leads to mold and bad smell. This in turn leads to less motivation to collect. The reduced quantities (because of the less motivation) lead to the feeling, that for those few pieces the effort for collection and recycling is too high compared with the environmental benefits. → 5W-Technique helps to identify underlying root causes, which can be easily fixed).

In the ACT-Stage we use the knowledge which we gathered during the Check-Phase to perform improvements. And – you guessed it already – the circle restarts with the next Plan-Phase.

A cool way to measure your progress is our Drops-App. Give it a try – it should work pretty much on every thing with a display. To get you started have a look the the quick introduction or watch a short video.


Waste management – like any other form of management – can be executed using proven frameworks. One of those frameworks is PDCA. Following a few simple steps, we can set the direction to improve our collection habits and recycling efforts, which in turn leads to reduced carbon footprint.

Give it a try. What works well for you? What’s challenging? Leave a comment or share your thoughts in the forum.

2018-09-30T11:01:45+00:00By |Categories: Recycling hacks|0 Comments

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