Sunday, July 13, 2008

Design the ideal recycling storage units for your kitchen

We're building a new home, and we want to design the ideal recycling storage units for the kitchen. In our existing house, this area is a mess. Any tips?

A: It makes sense to find convenient and attractive ways to cope with the typical household's revolving collection of cans, glass bottles and newspapers, since recycling has become an everyday reality.

Whether you're planning from scratch or improving an existing setup, the first decision is what room to use for storing the stuff. The kitchen is ideal, given that it's where most glass and plastic containers get used, but kitchen space is often at a premium. Other options are the pantry, garage, laundry room or mudroom.

If your garage doubles as a home for recyclables, a cart such as the Gaiam model can help store and move them ($120; gaiam.com; includes three bins).

Most people try to tuck used cans and bottles out of sight, but we've got no problem with leaving recyclable materials in the open, provided they're neatly stored. Industrial-type carts and bins with mesh baskets or wire shelves convey a certain efficiency appropriate to their function and complement contemporary interiors nicely. (One is Elfa's $129 Medium Mesh Laundry Sorter.) Any product with deep dimensions and easily cleaned surfaces will do. Find out what kinds of items are collected locally to figure out how many containers you need. Also, be realistic about how much junk you generate—it's tempting to just buy oversize containers, but the bigger the bin, the heavier it will be when full.

Not sold on the idea of leaving your trash on display? See the drawings above for design ideas, including under-counter options. One note about tucking recyclables away: Nothing should be stored close to furnaces, boilers or combustion water heaters. Besides the fire hazard, crowding these appliances makes them harder to service and can limit emergency access to cut-off valves and switches. A good rule of thumb is to leave at least 3 ft. of space around them.

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