In this kitchen in Rochester, New York, designer Jean Schanker made child's play out of recycling and trash collection. She put the collection containers within easy reach of work areas while keeping them out of sight when not in use.
"Recycling in the kitchen is successful in direct proportion to the size of the kitchen," says Doug Austin, program manager at Amera Cabinetry. "The more space you have, the easier it is to give up some of it for recycling."
Base cabinets make the most sense for storing heavy and bulky items like glass, plastic and metal. Recycling storage comes in two-, three- or four-bin units that are concealed in pullout drawers, tilt-out bins or roll-out shelves. Some bins can be attached to the door so that they roll out automatically when you open the door—a nice convenience. Many bins have lids that shut automatically when the cabinet is closed.
Most of these items are designed for existing cabinetry; you'll find them at home centers or in catalogs. If you are remodeling, most cabinet companies offer these accessories as options, too.
Depending on the capacity of the bins, you'll need to devote a minimum of one 18-in. base cabinet to recycling, but one measuring 24 to 30 in. means fewer trips to the garage or outdoor trash cans.
Because both under-the-sink and corner cabinets offer less than ideal storage for regular items, they are good locations for a recycling center. If you have more than one sink, don't use the base cabinet beneath the primary sink, where storage for food, pots and pans is often more important. It will be easier to give up space near the second sink. In new construction, consider offsetting sink plumbing so there is more room for storage. In existing cabinets, if pipes are in the way, attach a roll-out drawer to the bottom of the base for flat items like newspapers, magazines and flattened boxes.
Corner cabinets are inefficient and inconvenient for storing food and pots and pans, even if equipped with a lazy Susan—you're forever spinning the shelves to find something. But rotating recycling bins take advantage of this otherwise awkward space. Corner cabinets offer another advantage: They often sit between work areas, which makes them easy to reach whether you're cooking or cleaning up. However, because these lazy Susan bins don't pull out and you can't see through them, label or color-code them by material to save time sorting.
"Don't forget about composting," says certified kitchen designer Mary Jo Peterson, of Brookfield, Connecticut. She suggests a lidded chute that is cut into the counter and leads to a bin in the primary food-prep area.
The advantage: It's easy to collect scraps as you prepare meals. The disadvantages: You give up 6 to 8 in. of counter space and you can only install it in countertops that are impervious to water throughout their thickness, like solid surfacing, stone and stainless steel.