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I've been having issues with my indoors storage solution for plastics. Loose wrappers and containers from food products tend to take an unnecessarily large amount of space and without a way to compress them, even a large box has to be emptied more often that I would like.

Has anyone found a solution for this problem? My research on the topic has only revealed industrial solutions for making usable materials but no solutions for home use. To be clear, I am just looking for an efficient storing method, not a way to reuse the material myself.

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  • You're looking for ways to store recyclables before they're transported to recycling facilities?
    – LShaver
    Jun 5 '20 at 16:06
  • Just squish it?
    – Erik
    Jun 8 '20 at 6:58
  • @LShaver Yes, my current solution is just storing them in a cardboard box but due to the lightweight nature of the items plenty of air ends up between them, making the storing solution inefficient.
    – JJuntunen
    Jun 8 '20 at 7:45
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For plastic bottles, remove cap, twist and crush and then replace cap to stop the bottle from expanding again as explained here.

For plastic bags, stuff them in a cloth tube, and take bags out of the bottom to re-use. The cloth tube keeps them compressed.

For yoghurt pots etc: stack them together.

General: get a box with a heavy lid, or a tall narrow bin so that you can stuff things in and the pressure on the sides stops the plastic from just bouncing up again.

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Sometimes, the simplest solutions are the best:

  • Step on plastics to crush them - Crude, but efficient, and good for stuff like takeaway food containers, PET bottles (with lids removed), plastic cups, and even balled-up cling wrap. It isn't great for crinkly plastic like chip packets, but they can usually be flattened out by hand, and don't take up that much space anyway.
  • Cut up larger pieces - Use a pair of sturdy scissors or wire cutters to cut up larger, tougher plastics into smaller pieces. This is what I do for blister packs and old/broken containers. A good pair of industrial scissors work well for a lot of home-grade plastic, and would be a good investment if you find yourself cutting up large bits of plastic often.

Any active/powered tool or system is going to use some amount of resources. Because you specify that you are only doing this as a pre-step to passing the plastic into the municipal waste stream anyway, it's worth mentioning that some systems will probably increase the overall carbon footprint of the pieces of plastic that you feed into it. So please carefully consider if this is enough of a problem for you to consider some sort of automatic system to handle it.

With that said, there is a potential option:

Shred them

Warning: This will depend heavily on how your recycling center handles plastic waste - some may not accept shredded plastic at all (being reliant on finding the type of plastic by the symbols that are placed on it). Definitely double check with your local waste handler to see if this is an ok approach for them:

The 3D Printer community deals with this kind of problem with their test/failed prints, and has taken to shredding plastics using either store-bought or homemade shredders. In addition to motor-driven ones, you may be able to find or build manual shredders as well.

There are a few designs out there, ones that are similar to a food shredder, and others more similar to paper shredders. Note that any given design may not handle all shapes, sizes or types of plastic.

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  • 1
    Shredding will make the plastic completely unrecycleable in any systems that rely on the plastic type labels. Large municipal or commercial recycling facilities may have sophisticated systems for sorting without relying on the symbols but smaller facilities often do not and will not accept any material that is not clearly marked. Sep 30 '20 at 13:31
  • @Jean-PaulCalderone - Thanks, I have added a disclaimer to that effect
    – Robotnik
    Sep 30 '20 at 14:14
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+100

The most obvious way to reduce the volume of plastics in the home is not to bring them into the home in the first place. Reduce usage of single-use plastics and you will have less material to store for recycling (more commonly downcycling or just plain incineration). This is a greater step towards sustainability than any tricks to take a large quantity of plastic and reduce its volume for storage.

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Reducing your plastic waste volume begins with Reducing bringing plastics into your home.

  1. Reduce plastic inputs by removing items from their wrapper after purchase and carry in your own bag/container.
  2. plastic bags, plastic wraps, plastic fiber, flexible plastics, cereal bags, etc you can stuff them all in one coke bottle known as the "Coke BOttle Challenge" Once the bottle is full to capacity, simply dispose of it at the recycling drop off. enter image description here
  3. Switch to natural chewing gums (modern chewing gum is made of plastic)
  4. Switch to matches instead of disposeable lighters (matches are largely biodegradable) or switch to refillable zippo style lighters
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    This most likely varies on your location but at least in Finland stuffing plastic inside bottles or other otherwise tightly together is strictly forbidden since it messes up the sorting of the materials. source
    – JJuntunen
    Oct 5 '20 at 13:06

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