Select Page

Inside My Zero Waste Recycling Bin - ClassyAshli - Ashli Cooper

It’s a common trend in the zero waste community to share what’s in our trash cans, right?

Yeah. I’m not doing that.

And there are two reasons why.

The first and and biggest reason is because I still live at home with my mom who produces a lot of trash. We share a trash can, and I’m not really here to subscribe to the idea of hoarding all my trash in my room just to show what’s in it.

The second is because I feel like that’s kind of overdone, and usually when it is done, it’s done by people who have minimized their trash to a single 1 oz. mason jar that should actually be used as a salt shaker.

It also seems as though these people (aka our zero waste aspirations) all seem to have pretty much the same thing in their jars: fruit stickers, tags from their goodwill purchases, receipts, the random straw packaging from when they were given a straw after asking specifically not to get one, not condoms, thank God, because…ew.

By the way, this begs the question, for people who use condoms, and their only trash receptacle is a jar, where do the condoms go? Like, I’d imagine that they throw it away in an outside trashcan, but where is it stashed until then???

Okay, never mind. Anyways…

Again, my point is that I feel like a truer representation of our consumption and our zero waste habits lie in our recycling and our compost.

(Obviously though, this may not be the case if you’re at the absolute beginning of your journey (me), and the majority of your waste is still landfill waste)

My recycling “bin” is actually a Trader Joe’s paper bag. I used to get them all the time when I shopped there. I kept them all, because, well, that’s just something we’ve always done in our house. We just hoard all the bags for no real purpose.

Now, since going zero waste, I’ve been able to use them as my recycling bin. When it’s full, I just dump the whole thing in our big curbside recycling bin, and when that’s full, we wheel it out to our curb for Waste Management to come pick it up.

Here’s what I got:

This is the first image showing off what's in my recycling bin. It includes two empty plastic water bottles, two empty cans of green beans, two empty cans of Jumex peach nectar, two straw sleeves. You know the little paper things that cover the straw? those. Three stacks of sachet tea packaging. One is the Yogi Bedtime caramel tea, the second is the Yogi Women's Raspberry Leaf, and the third is Green Tea Super Antioxidant. Then I have a torn paper bag from the Kolache Factory, Two business cards that were sent with a package, a false eyelash cardboard insert that came in the packaging, and a clothing tag from H&M.

1. Two water bottles that I saved from my job. We have recycling at my job, but sometimes my coworkers will leave half finished water bottles at work. If i notice them, I’ll take them home and use the water on my plants or I might use it in my spray bottle for my hair.

2. Two green bean cans because we mix our dogs’ food with green beans. They’re chunkier than they should be, so this is what the vet suggested

3. Two Jumex peach nectars because I simply love this stuff. I was raised on it as a child, and every now and then like to treat myself to it.

4. Two straws. One, I’m not really sure where it came from. The other is a Chick-fil-a straw. I very rarely eat there, and one day that craving just hit so hard. You know?

5. Three stacks of tea. The orange one is the Soothing Caramel Bedtime, which I’m not really sure if it helps with my sleep or not, but it’s dang good. The Pink one is Women’s Raspberry Leaf. It’s supposed to help with cramps, but I’m bad at drinking it in the frequency I’m supposed to, so I’m not really sure how well that one works either. The green one is Green Tea Super Antioxidant. It’s delicious, but my body decided to hit me with a caffeine sensitivity a few years ago. It progressively gets worse, and now it’s to the point where I can’t even enjoy my favorite southern beverage (Sweet tea. Green or black, flavored or plain. I’m not picky).

6. A torn bag from the Kolache Factory. This is another one of those things that I rarely get. I might get a kolache from here once a year or so. My mom happened to go by there and asked if I wanted anything. My response? Two sausage and gravy please! The kolache busted and got on a part of the bag, so I ripped that part off and recycled the rest.

7. Two cards from Chagrin Valley. I ordered a shampoo bar from them recently to test out. Included in the packaging were two cards that I will tell them next time to leave out.

8. Soft Touch false eyelash insert. I was cleaning out and minimizing my makeup collection, and this was one of the things that made it to recycling.

9. An H&M clothing tag. H&M used to be my ish. That was until I found out about fast fashion, and as a result I’ve put myself on a whole “buy nothing new: clothes edition” thing for 2017.

This is the second image showing off what's in my recycling bin. It includes an empty gallon of white distilled vinegar, an empty box of Mr. Clean magic erasers, an empty travel sized bottle of finger nail polish remover, a cardboard liner for a package of cotton swabs, an empty plastic container that used to package cotton swabs, craft board inserts that came packaged with a pair shoes, a small brown paper bag, a medium sized gift bag, and craft paper.

10. A gallon of vinegar that I use to clean with.

11. An empty box of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers because my mom refuses to accept the fact that I clean with vinegar even though that’s what she was brought up doing. Okay, let me rephrase that – more so than being unaccepting to it’s cleaning properties, she’s just not here for its smell.

12. An empty bottle of nail polish remover. This was my mom’s. I saved it from ending up in the trash.

13. The cardboard insert to a cotton swab container.

14. The empty cotton swab container that I finally used up after many years of owning.

15. A really short screw thing that I’m not sure why I have in the first place.

16. A broken chain from my ceiling pull. Don’t ask how that happened.

17. Card stock insert thingies to a pair of shoes I bought from someone on Poshmark. They didn’t fit the original owner and were still in the original packaging.

18. A small craft paper bag that packaged a replacement for one of the million pieces of glassware I broke during my organic chemistry lab.

19. A giftbag I received when I bought my niece an organic cotton dress from this cute little boutique in my city. It came with a clear plastic sticker on it, so I peeled it off and tossed it in the trash. Sometimes I forget to mention no bag until it’s too late.

20. Craft Paper that probably came shipped with something.

This is the second image showing off what's in my recycling bin. It includes two stacks of papers and some tissue paper.

21. A stack of paper. I didn’t go through all of it, but I know some of it was from when I was creating my resumes.

22. A stack of school related paper. Most of these are loose papers from my lab manuals that have been taken apart to be recycled. Quite a few of these are receipts from all the glassware I had to replace, because I have butterfingers. Insert eye roll.

23. Tissue paper. Some of this has been rescued from my job, and some came in that box of shoes I mentioned earlier.

So that’s all that’s been lingering in my recycling bin! Let me know if you enjoy this kind of post and if you’d like to see more! Also, what is a common item found in your recycling bin?

It's normal to see what's inside a zero waster's trash can or trash jar, but I'm here to show you what's been collecting in my zero waste recycling bin.




Trash jars can be misleading and an overwhelming goal to reach. The recycling bin, on the other hand, can show a more realistic viewpoint of a zero waster's consumption habits. Here's what's in mine!