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While we all work toward the goal of producing zero waste, recycling is a necessary practice to help mitigate the harmful effects of over-consumption. Streamlining your recycling routine is easier with a dedicated place to store paper, plastics, metal, and glass.
Today, there are recycling bins in a multitude of sizes and formats that offer a number of features designed to help you do your civic duty, whether you live in a studio apartment or a family home.
Below, our picks of the best recycling bins.
Best Overall: Simplehuman Rectangular Dual Compartment 58-Liter Step Can
This attractive, stainless steel option from Simplehuman is divided into two sides, so you can easily separate two different types of recycling, such as paper and plastic, or use one side for trash. (One side has a blue line bucket with a handle, so it works well for bottles and cans as it can be removed for cleaning.) It has the familiar step opening mechanism, which the company claims should last 150,000 steps, or 20 daily taps for 20 years.
The finish is designed to resist fingerprint smudges, and there's a storage spot for holding liner bags cleverly concealed within the bin, so you'll always have a fresh one ready to go. The lid closes silently, rather than banging down, and the bin measures about 2 feet high and stores 58 liters total. The side for trash holds 34 liters (about 9 gallons), while the other side stores 24 liters (about 6 gallons). Given its large size, this can is quite versatile and would be appropriate in a kitchen, basement, or garage. Another bonus: Simplehuman offers a 10-year warranty for its trash cans.
Best Budget: Umbra Garbino Recycling Bin
Not only is this 9-liter option affordable, if you buy it, you'll earn the bragging rights to claim that one of your bin's siblings has been on display at the Museum of Modern Art (truth!), no doubt due to its clean lines and curvy good looks. It comes in a few different color choices, as well as the option to have a "recycle" logo on the side, to help avoid confusion about what goes where. It's made of hard plastic that's easy to wipe down, and since it's somewhat small (9 liters is about 2.5 gallons), it would work well in a small room, like an office or craft room.
Best Set: KELKIM Five-Bag Set
Want to organize your recyclables on a micro level? You need this colorful 5-bag set of soft, collapsible bins. They're made from laminated, waterproof, polypropylene plastic that's easy to wipe down, and the set includes bags in an array of hues: red (metal), blue (plastic), orange (glass), and green (paper), as well as a gray bin to hold items you've earmarked for donation. They're each 17 inches high and can be folded and stacked when not in use. If you're setting them up together, the bins have velcro straps to connect them to each other; they also have optional loop handles so they can be carried like shopping bags if you need to transport them.
Best Stylish: Brabantia 60-Liter Dual Compartment Bo Touch Bin
This bin, which was designed to resemble a vintage cooler, has a gorgeously glossy finish and a 60-liter capacity (it's divided in half, so each side has 30 liters, or about 8 gallons). Slightly under 2 feet wide and 3 feet high, it's made from stainless steel and plastic, and the interior comes with two removable buckets that can be easily pulled out and cleaned. The bin is elevated, which helps keep your floor clean and also prevents muscle strain from bending over, and the adjustable legs have non-stick feet.
Brabantia has received "Cradle to Cradle" certification for this bin, which means that its production process meets certain standards for sustainability and social responsibility. Although the price makes this bin one of the more expensive choices on our list, you can take some comfort knowing that it's covered by a 10-year warranty.
Best for Outdoors: Suncast 33-Gallon Hideaway Can
If you're looking for a rugged bin to keep in your driveway or on your deck, this 33-gallon resin option is watertight and has a UV-protective exterior that's designed to resist fading. It has a hinged double lid with a latch to prevent critters from rummaging through the contents in hopes of a snack. At 16 x 32 inches, it has plenty of room to store recycling but doesn't have a giant footprint, and you might even choose to line up a few for different types of waste. The brown basket-weave design is more attractive than the typical bright blue hue that comes standard with many recycle bins, and will blend well with your landscape and outdoor decor.
Best Lockable/Childproof: Room Essentials Seven-Gallon Step Trash Can
This simple plastic bin would suit a family who doesn't tend to let their recycling pile up, since it's a more streamlined medium size. It opens with a foot pedal and has a handy locking mechanism to help keep curious babies, toddlers, and pets from breaking in and making a mess. It comes in both basic black as well as a more playful mint green, and stands roughly 17 x 14 inches.
Best for Gatherings: Trashco Flings Bins POP UP Recycle Bins
Parties are fun. Dealing with the aftermath of sorting through trash because your guests couldn't figure out your recycling system? Not so much. These pop-up bins hold roughly 60 cans or bottles (that's about 13 gallons) and are sold 10 to a pack, so you can strategically scatter them around your house or yard during the festivities and also have a few left for future shindigs. They're also great for camping trips since they pack flat and fold down to the size of half a pizza box. They're made from sturdy plastic film, so assuming things don't get too gross, you can probably use them more than once.
Best Touchless: Simplehuman Rectangular Dual Compartment Sensor Can with Voice and Motion Control
Another worthy pick from Simplehuman, this split bin has some serious bells and whistles. It has voice control, so you simply say "open can" to pop up the lid automatically, and if you need to deal with a bigger job, tell it to "stay open" and it will do that. When it's time to wrap up, the command is—you guessed it—"close can." (If you're the type who tends to get distracted, fear not—it will automatically shut if it's left open for longer than 10 minutes.) There's also a motion sensor that responds to a wave of your hand, and is even smart enough to adapt your movements, so it won't be triggered by the dog running past it.
One side has a bucket with a metal handle that works well for recycled materials, while the other half has a flip-up rim that keeps the liner cleverly in place. The capacity is 58 liters total: 34 liters (about 9 gallons) on the side for trash and 24 liters (about 6 gallons) on the recycling side. The outside has a clear coating to help guard against smudges and gunk, and like all Simplehuman cans, this pick is covered by a 10-year warranty.
Best for Pick Up: Rubbermaid Commercial Blue Rollout Recycling Trashcan
If you need something to store all of your cans, paper, and glass until your local waste management company comes to pick it up, this recycling bin is a good option. At a whopping 50 gallons, it has plenty of room to hold everything you are recycling on a weekly basis, even if you have a ton of cardboard boxes or soda cans to add to the pile.
The classic blue color will make it easy for your collectors to spot which bin holds your recycling, even in the early mornings. And the hinged lid means that if your bin blows over because of strong wind, you won't lose the lid along with scattering your recycling.
Best for Offices: Yamazaki Wood Handle Trash Can
Simple, sleek, and easy to clean if needed—there is literally nothing to dislike about this plastic pick from West Elm. It comes in either white or mint green, with a blonde wooden handle that's perfect for grabbing and tilting the contents into a larger recycling bag or bin. This pick is the perfect size to tuck under your desk in your home office or in your bedroom, but it would be too small for heavy-traffic areas like your kitchen. If you forget to empty your soda can all the way, the plastic can be wiped clean with a dry cloth or a gentle cleaner.
Best Stackable: SORTERA Recycling Bin
These highly affordable bins are perfect for stacking in your garage or mudroom for easy recycling sorting that's out of sight. The plain white exteriors can be labeled with "Metal," "Glass," "Plastic," and "Paper" to help your family easily remember what material goes where, but the hinged lids will keep your recycling out of your sight until it's ready to be collected.
These bins come in two sizes—16 gallons and 10 gallons—so you can pick whichever is best for each type of recycling, but the sizes can still be stacked together to keep everything tidy.
The Simplehuman Rectangular Dual Compartment Trash Can is our best overall pick (view at Bed Bath & Beyond). It's practical, as you'll only need this one receptacle for both trash and recycling, plus its durable and sleek design is a great fit for any kitchen. If you're looking to add a space for recycling on a budget, try the Umbra Garbino Recycling Bin (view at Umbra).
What to Look for When Buying Recycling Bins
The best way to encourage recycling is to choose a bin that is intuitive and easy to use for everyone in the house. Look for features that will make using your recycling bin pleasurable, such as soft-close compartments, no-touch opening, or built-in liner bag storage. Be sure the bins are easy to open and maneuver, so that recycling will feel like the simple, virtuous habit that it is and not a chore.
Recycling bins come in all shapes and sizes, from small models for apartment dwellers who take the trash out frequently, to larger homes that recycle for weekly pick-up. Choose recycling bins that are adapted to how much waste your household produces, the space you have to house them, and your neighborhood recycling schedule. Make sure that the bins fit comfortably under the sink, or stacked in the corner of the garage, or wherever you plan to keep them so they are accessible and easy to use.
In the spirit of producing less waste, look for high quality bins that are durable and won’t have to be replaced for years to come. It might seem ironic that the majority of recycling bins are made of plastic, but you can mitigate your guilt about that by looking for bins made of recycled plastic. Be sure that bins are lightweight for ease of use, but sturdy enough so that you won’t wear them out too quickly.
Can you put clothes in a recycle bin?
Clothes have no place in a traditional recycling bin. Instead, you can donate clothes that are laundered and in good, wearable condition to organizations like the Salvation Army or Goodwill. Clothes that are torn, damaged, irrevocably soiled, or contaminated with chemicals belong in the trash.
How do you find out what can go in a recycle bin?
Recycling rules and regulations can differ depending on your location, so always check local guidelines. You should also check labels on products if you are unsure whether or not packaging can be recycled. While there are increasing options for recycling everything from batteries to furniture, in general, recycling bins for the home are devoted to paper, plastics, metal cans, and glass, and should be clearly marked as such.
How do you clean a recycling bin?
Plastic bins can be wiped down with a cloth or cleaned with dish soap and water. Choose recycling bins that are easy to clean, to keep them free from dust or spills. The best way to keep your recycling bin clean is to place clean, dry items in it. Take care to rinse food residue before you recycle, while remaining mindful of not wasting too much water in the process, and allow items to dry before placing them in bins.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This roundup was written by Lexi Dwyer, who has covered topics like office decor, window boxes, and affordable furniture for The Spruce. Since she lives in a New York City apartment, her trash and recycling system is all about saving space: one slide-out can under the sink, two bins tucked at the bottom of the pantry, and a compost bag in the freezer.