Your Guide to Sustainable Spring Cleaning in 2021


Last year, many people stayed busy by spring cleaning, which proved to be a productive way to stay safe at home in the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the pandemic continues and the weather turns toward spring, it is likely spring cleaning will land on many to-do and honey-do lists.

When it comes to spring cleaning, the activity is not only productive, it’s one of the many tasks best completed alone or with those in your household, making it perfect for social/physical distancing, but before you usher those old dusty knickknacks to the curb, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Cleaning is great. Sanitizing during the COVID-19 pandemic and cold/flu season is even better but be certain to read your cleaning product’s labels and follow directions to ensure you are cleaning and sanitizing properly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has helpful tips and guidelines.
  • If you’re dusting, washing windows, or completing other activities, consider using a reusable/washable cloth. If you use paper towels, remember, only the cardboard paper rolls are recyclable, the paper towels are not. Old newspapers can be great for cleaning windows, but wet newspaper does not belong in your recycling cart.
  • When recycling cleaning product bottles, first ensure the container is empty and dry. Also, be sure to remove any sprayer or pump tops that contain materials other than plastic as these are not recyclable.
  • Gloves, reusable or otherwise, do not go in your household recycling. Wipes, even cleaning wipes, are neither recyclable nor flushable.
  • Consider spring cleaning in stages. Many goodwill and community drop-off locations for bulky items may have limited business and drop-off hours. So, while you may start cleaning and organizing, have a plan for what you’ll do with items you decide you no longer need or want. For instance, you may consider organizing and separating piles for donations, yard sales, and bulky item drop-off that you can circle back to once it is safer to do so.

While recycling is an essential public service, and we are very grateful to collectors for continuing their service at this time, we don’t want to overwhelm the system or essential personnel. Too much could end up with a pile remaining at the end of your driveway. So, use the extra time at home to focus on home organizing and spring cleaning in stages.

Here are some organizing tips to inspire your checklist:

  • Create a Know What to Throw sign for your kitchen, laundry room, and bathroom(s). The majority of your home’s recyclables will come from these rooms. You can use our free DIY Signs for Recycling to create yours.
  • Consider separating compostables from your waste. Food and organics are not recyclable, but you can start composting at home to enhance your small garden or flower beds.
  • Twin the bins in your kitchen, laundry room, and bathrooms. Twinning the bin, or locating a recycling and waste container side-by-side, helps ensure you’re capturing quality recyclables that become new products, keeping your community and planet healthy and waste-free.
  • Shop for sustainable, earth friendly products. Check products, containers, and packaging for climate friendly pledges and content made from recycled material. Remember to check your local recycling program’s website for what is recyclable in your neighborhood. (Remember, if you are shopping in person to take your reusable shopping bag. Plastic shopping bags are not recyclable in your curbside bin or cart. If you have cleaning products shipped to your home, remember to recycle your cardboard box as most, but not all, local programs accept cardboard).
  • Create a convenient, safe and secure space for your recycling bin or cart near your home. Whether it’s your backyard, garage, carport, or other space — take a moment to be certain you have a level, secure space for your recycling cart that may protect against weather, theft, or vandalism. Don’t forget to make it convenient for your family to add loose, unbagged recyclables.
  • Ensure you also have a level space for your recycling cart at your curbside. The last thing you want is a tipsy cart potentially spilling recyclables into your yard, driveway, or street. If your community uses fully-automated trucks (recycling trucks with arms), these need three feet of space around each cart – so ensure your recycling cart is positioned away from cars, mailboxes, trees, and other obstacles.
  • If you live in an apartment, condo, or other multifamily residence, make a space for your recycling container within your home, possibly near your kitchen or entry.
  • Pack and set aside any items you want to get rid of or donate. While many goodwill and other donation centers are operating with reduced items, these items will be of value to area nonprofits. So instead of sending them to the landfill, please consider temporally locating a clean, dry space to store these in your home, attic, or garage until you can drop-off the donations or until they can be picked up.

Recycling can vary from one to community to another – it may even differ where you work, live, play, and learn. Some locations may accept more recyclable materials while others may accept different recyclables. Explore your local programs website to learn where and what to recycle.

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