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Keeping Pests Away From Recycling Containers

By Chris Williams on April 8, 2014.

Insects Rodents RecycleQuestion

I run a small daycare out of my home. As a class project, we want to set up a recycling area behind the house with different containers for glass, metal, and paper. I know pests could be a problem. What should we do to keep bugs to a minimum around the bins? Thanks for your help. —B.H., Andover, MA

Answer

It’s good that you’re asking this question. With small children around you don’t want to attract insects or rodents into the same space where they play. My first suggestion is that you try to find space for the recycling in a garage or basement instead. Having the bins outside means that they are going to attract more pests than if they were inside or in a garage (and yellow jackets could be a problem, see below). But, on the plus side, it means the bins will be easier to hose out.

  • Use heavy plastic or metal containers, not cardboard. Although it may be easier for the children to work with open top containers, you really should have tight-fitting lids. At the very least, choose a container with a swinging door lid that will keep some pests out.
  • The most important bit of advice is to thoroughly rinse the containers before they go into the bins. It doesn’t take much leftover soda or food residue to attract flies and wasps.
  • If you line the bins with plastic bags, use strong bags or double bags to guard against tears and leaks. When you remove the bags, tie them off. Don’t put new bags in until you have cleaned the bottom of the bin.
  • Take the recyclables to the recycling center or have them picked up as often as possible so that you can wash out the bins before you start to fill them again. Smaller containers are better for this purpose since that forces you to empty and clean more often. Wash out the bins frequently with soapy water; this gets rid of spilled food residue and washes away any insect eggs or larvae in the bin.
  • I think your biggest concern later in the season will be bees and wasps that are attracted to the sugary residue left in containers. It could be tough to keep yellow jackets away. If you have a lot of bees or wasps at the bins, call an exterminator because it probably means that you have a nest (or nests) nearby in your yard that should be removed.

Photo credit: Marshall Astor / Foter / CC BY-SA 2.0

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