Ask Ms. Green Genes: My Husband Won’t Recycle

Animals locking horns:  what do you do if your husband won't recycle?
Should you lock horns to help save the planet?
Source: National Geographic

Dear Ms. Green Genes,
I think recycling is very important. But my husband won’t recycle. He hates the very idea of it. And worse, he doesn’t want us to recycle at all! He thinks the bins take up too much room.
I’m angry at him and I feel horribly guilty about us not recycling. What should I do?
Feeling Trashy

Dear Feeling,

First of all, thanks so much for wanting to recycle! The Earth and I appreciate you.

Second, How frustrating that Hubby is an anti-recycler! Sometimes we might think that because we’re married to someone, they are going to support the values and causes we support. It can be quite the shock when that turns out to not be true. Why isn’t our spouse on our side?

I’m fortunate that my husband wants to recycle. If anything, Mr. Green Genes is a Wishful Recycler; he tries to recycle items that I know will be rejected. And he is a bit of a Messy Recycler: I often fish containers out of the bin to give them a rinse so they won’t be contaminated.

But I love him to bits, and I suspect you love your Hubby as well. And it is tough to get adults to change their behavior. I am a Pescatarian, and I wish that other people would eat less meat. But I don’t nag or sermonize about it. Why not, if eating less meat is that important? Because nagging makes the issue about me. The “nag-ee” shifts their response from “gosh, I’d like to understand more about this” to “wow, she’s one of those [insert eco-stereotype here].” They dig in and shut off. And your husband is likely to react in the same way.

So I think you should not worry so much about his trashy habit, and more importantly, try to let it go. The Earth is important, but so is your marriage, and even to Ms. Green Genes, this one issue is not worth fighting about.

On the other hand: You, my dear friend, have every right to recycle and your husband should keep his hands off of your trash! Can you work with him to solve the bin problem together? Perhaps you could put your recycling bin just inside the garage, or swap out one trash bin in the house for a recycling bin? It seems that if he knows you will accept his feelings about the matter, he might be open to accepting yours.

And maybe you can do more. Are there ways you can reduce the trash in your household? For example, switching plastic water bottles to a large jug or a pitcher in the fridge, buying in bulk, going digital with newspapers and magazines? And can you re-use or up-cycle any of those candidates for the garbage? (You can find some ideas for re-use here, or see my post on up-cycling here.) You earn a better spot in Recycling Heaven by reducing and re-using first. And if you reduce and re-use, Hubby might have fewer opportunities to throw things away.

Maybe your husband will notice what you are doing and adopt some of your practices. Or maybe not. I bet he is wonderful in other ways, and our time on this dear Planet is so short– so please appreciate who he is, and be the best Recycler you can be, and save that guilt for other matters.


This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. What a fun yet helpful column. It reminds us about balance in life with lots of embedded positive ideas in a playful format. Great job!!
    I too live with an amazing and wonderful man who is not willing (at this time—I always allow for change) to recycle. Where we live it’s really a pain and $ soo can understand.

  2. I have an odd relationship with newspapers. I read three on line, and do the Time’s online puzzles too. But every day I rush to get the Seattle Times so that I can sit down with a pencil and a clipboard and do the crosswords the old fashioned way. It’s a ritual. Meanwhile the front section get’s read digitally most of the time, and the sports section only gets used when I’m painting the house. Maybe I should seek out a sports nut who will take this newsprint off my hands, and save a few trees:).

  3. I love to tera cycle and the very thought of it makes my husband angry at me for doing it, I had all of my stuff ready to go to the recycle reuse hub, it was put in an empty unused trash can and while I was at work he threw it away when I asked him why he did it and he said that it’s trash and it stresses him out. And he doesn’t want to see it again. I love him dearly I feel like I’m doing the right thing for the planet and he should ignore it and focus on other things that don’t stress him out but he won’t.

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