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Can a Simple Design Fix Make Recycling Unavoidable?

Convincing people to recycle is hard. You can see it in the numbers. Despite the fact that 90 percent of Americans have access to recycling programs, less than 30 percent of plastic bottles are recycled. How can we make recycling easier? That’s what we asked after pulling recyclables out of our bathroom trashcan for what seemed like the millionth time. We hated taking the extra time to walk recyclables from the bathroom to our main recycling bin in the kitchen, but when we tried to make a pile of plastic shampoo and lotion bottles, toilet paper tubes, and castoff cardboard packaging outside the bathroom door, it wasn’t working. At the same time, we wanted to make sure that none of the recyclables were going in the trashcan just because it was easier.

Being a husband and wife team, we wanted to end our arguments over waste, so we looked for an inexpensive, small dual-use can, but came up empty. All of our neighbors here in Dallas have curbside single-stream recycling. We figured more than a few of them were experiencing the same problem, and as the rest of America is being confronted with the same challenge, we saw a need for a small solution.

Recycling is catching on at the municipal level for good reason: local governments can get someone to buy their waste instead of paying our tax dollars to shovel it into a landfill. That’s why so many cities are focusing on trash-free initiatives. As taxpayers, that’s something we can get excited about. Money saved or earned by recycling can fund all the other things we want, like good schools, libraries, parks, and public transportation, while keeping the earth greener at the same time. But, to maximize these benefits, everyone needs to participate, and recycling needs to become as habitual as using a trashcan.

We decided to design the small dual-use can we couldn’t find. After working on it for more than a year, we’ve brought the Solecan from a sketch to a working 3D-printed prototype. We want to keep the Solecan as eco-friendly as possible by making it out of recycled plastic. With the support of others on Kickstarter who would like to recycle more and change the trash dynamic, we hope to bring the Solecan to market. In the process, we also hope to make recycling an easy habit for everyone to embrace. What’s your idea about how to make recycling easier?

This project was featured in GOOD's Saturday series Push for Good—our guide to crowdfunding creative progress.

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