Angie's List is now Angi. Learn more

How to Host an At-Home Recycling Drive

Updated June 7, 2019
plastic bottles for recycle

If you care about the environment, it can be difficult to sit back and listen to experts talk about the effects of climate change and pollution.

The good news is that you don’t have to invest in an electric vehicle, stop eating meat, or go completely off the grid to make a positive impact on the world around you. While all those things certainly would help reduce your environmental footprint, there are other, more manageable ways you can raise awareness and make a difference right where you live.

Simply making the effort to educate people you know about simple concepts can make a big impact. An at-home recycling drive, for example, is a great way to get family members, friends, and neighbors involved in an easy, earth-friendly activity. In fact, if you plan, promote, and implement the event using the tips below, you may be able to reach even further into your community with your practical message of conservation.

What is recyclable?

Before you can begin planning your event, it’s imperative you know exactly what is recyclable and how you will recycle it. Depending on where you live, recycling facilities vary greatly. In most cases, figuring out what services are offered by your local government, as well as charitable organizations and private, for-profit companies, and how to best take advantage of them will take some research. Once you know the following, you can figure out the logistics of helping people recycle their belongings at your event and educate them on how to continue to do so afterward.

Bulk or Separate?

The first thing to figure out when it comes to recycling where you live is what you can and cannot recycle.

From there, you’ll need to know whether your recycling facility accepts items in bulk. In other words, can you collect plastic, paper, aluminum, and glass in one container? If not, you will be required to separate the materials. Even localities with bulk, curbside recycling pickup may require quantities of items that won’t fit in your residential receptacle to be separated. In some cases, you may be able to schedule a special pickup, but you may need to make arrangements to deliver your haul to the facility. Contact your local solid waste or recycling facility to find out.

Other Materials

In addition to the materials accepted by your local government, you may want to offer the opportunity for people attending your drive to recycle other materials, like electronics, household items, furniture, and even vehicles. Arguably, these items are more of a threat anyway since they cannot be left in the bin for pickup. This may mean they are more likely to be discarded irresponsibly.

If you intend to collect these items, you will likely need to reach out to local charitable organizations and private businesses that collect, refurbish, and resell the items. In some cases, these businesses charge a fee to pick up items. In other cases, you’ll be able to drop off the items at the retail or warehouse locations. Rarely, the organizations may come pick up the items free of charge.

Here is a list of national recycling organizations to get you started. Enter your zip code to find an organization near you.

Electronics - Look for an R2:2013 certified recycler that handles out-of-date electronics responsibly.

Batteries - The Earth911 battery recycling locator will help you find a location near you that accepts the types of batteries you are trying to recycle. There are also mail-in programs available.

Household items - Habitat for Humanity ReStore locations accept donations of household items and furniture. Some locations will even pick up the items from you free of charge.

Vehicles - 1-800-Charity Cars will arrange pickup of vehicles, as well as deliver a donation receipt for the full value of the car, while organizations like Junk Car Medics will pay you cash for your car. Both organizations offer free pickup.

The Event

Now that you’ve done your research, it’s time to put together the event. Remember, the goal is two-fold. First, you want to give your community an opportunity to properly dispose of items that, otherwise, could be harmful to the environment. Second, you want to educate people about the value of recycling and give them the tools they need to continue being good stewards of the environment. Follow this checklist before, during, and after your event to ensure you accomplish both.

Before:

From prepping your space to promoting the event, these tasks should be completed prior to the event.

Prep your home. In most cases, you’ll want to schedule the event outdoors. Once you determine which items you’ll collect, section off areas of your property and label them accordingly. If you have access to trucks, you may want attendees to deposit their items directly into the truck beds for easy transport. Otherwise, stock up on large garbage bags. For smaller items, like batteries and cell phones, you can use bathroom trash receptacles. In the event of rain, you will want to set up tents to protect electronics, furniture, or other items that will be repurposed.

Secure volunteers. You won’t be able to keep track of everything on the day of the event on your own. To ensure the event goes off without a hitch, sign up enough volunteers to man each of the collection stations and a few extra folks to act as floaters. This will free you up to direct people, answer questions, and deal with any last minute issues that arise.

Promote the event. Create a virtual event on social media, and share it to your personal network. Ask friends and family members to do the same. You should also send the event, along with a brief summary of what you want to accomplish, to local and regional organizations that promote environmentalism, as well as local media outlets. You should also make sure the companies and organizations you are partnering with share your event on their channels.

During:

On the day of the event, you’ll likely feel excited and overwhelmed. After you check with your volunteers to ensure they are prepared, take the following steps:

Mingle. Hand out materials from your partners about their services, collect contact information from attendees who want more information, and disseminate the information you’ve learned from planning and preparing for this event. One-on-one conversations with individuals is one of the best ways to raise awareness about an issue.

Document the event. Take pictures, and try to keep track of your event’s success. That may mean tracking specifics like the number of bags recycled or number of attendees, or it may be more subjective. Either way, be sure to write down the stats and notes throughout the event, so you can recall them easily later.

Make a call to action. Every event should consist of a next step, or several, that will help your cause even further. You can ask attendees to donate to a local organization fighting for other environmental issues, to write letters to their elected officials regarding climate change, or to sign up for an email list or join a social media group so you can stay in touch about environmental issues.

After:

The event may be over, but your work isn’t done. Once every piece of material is in the process of being recycled, maximize the efficacy of the event with these actions.

Share the results. This is where documentation from the event will come in handy. In the days following the event, head back to social media, and share the impact you’ve made. Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. That’s how people will know your event was worthwhile.

Thank attendees, volunteers, and partners. Acknowledge the people that made this event possible, both publicly and privately. Shout out your team on social media, and send them a handwritten thank you card (on recycled paper!).

Plan your next event! Next time, aim to address another issue or scale your event to increase its impact. How about a composting class led by a local professor or hosting a community beautification day?

As you can see, hosting an at-home recycling drive is no small task. It will take time, commitment, and resources to pull off — both from you and your team. However, if you plan well and pay attention to the details, you can turn your concern into activism and inspire others to do the same.