With free building plans from Ana White, I was able (as a beginner) to build my own trash and recycling centre for my kitchen and create a bit of extra counter space at the same time!

We are GREAT recyclers in our house!  (I’m so modest lol)  We don’t consume any more or any less than anyone else, but I have always made a concentrated effort to keep as much out of the landfill as possible.

This helps:

Recycling bins near the garbage help to encourage recycling

Our big, ugly recycling bins (full of stuff) sitting right next to the garbage can.  Friends and neighbours keep their recycling in the garage and are good about walking everything out to their bins – but I know we wouldn’t do it.  In fact, our recycling piles quadrupled when I brought this recycling centre into the house and next to the kitchen.  The downside is that it’s ugly, and if you don’t clean your jars/cans out thoroughly, you can also attract bugs in the warmer months.

Enter Ana White and her “beginner plans” for creating your own non-eye-sore DIY recycling centre

I won’t take traffic from her site by copying her entire post, but I do need to give you a few tips before you start building…

Ana gives you a detailed layout of how to cut and maximize your wood – but there is an error in her drawing:

Ana White recycling centre plans

The two purple rectangles should actually be 17 5/8″ to 17 ¾” wide.  As you scroll through her plans, you’ll see she’s inserted an edit, but if you work from this visual representation, you’ll miss it (like I did)

Cutting List for Base Unit

A) 2 – ¾″ Plywood or MDF @ 28 ¼″ x 16″ (Sides)
B) 1 – ¾″ Plywood or MDF @ 36 ¾″ x 16″ (Bottom)
C) 1 – ¾″ Plywood or MDF @ 27 ½″ x 16″ (Center Divider, front corner notched out)
D) 1 – ¾″ Plywood or MDF @ 40 ¼″ x 17″ (Top)
E) 1 – 1×2 @ 36 ¾″ (Top Support)
F) 2 – 1×3 @ 16″ (Side Footer, cut out inside)
G) 1 – 1×3 @ 39 ¾″ (Front Footer, cut out inside)
H) 1 – ¼″ Plywood or MDF @ 38 ¼″ x 30″ (Back)
Cutting List for Doors (Tilt Out and Slide Out)
I) 2 – ¾″ Plywood or MDF @ 17 ¾″ x 26 ½″ (Doors, potentially slightly smaller to fit hinges)
J) 2 – ¾″ Plywood or MDF @ 17 ¾″ x 15″ (Bottoms of bins)
K) 4 – 1×2 @ 20″ (Drawer Braces, ends mitered at 45°)
Lowe’s will make 5 cuts for you for free, so it’s worth taking both the image and the cut list with you when you purchase your wood/mdf.
¾” MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard) at 4′ x 8′ size comes in at about $80 Cdn.   ¾” plywood ranges from $90 to $96 (for a clean grain) for the same size sheet.
I’m not a big fan of working with MDF, but the cost savings and smooth finish (less sanding) made it more appealing in this case.

Building your trash and recycling centre

I made a few errors in building this, so I’m going to share them here so that you DON’T do the same:
  1. If using MDF, you need a counter sink drill bit.  I didn’t have one and opted to “wing-it” and my screw heads sit just above the surface of the wood. It’s okay, but it would certainly be better if they were counter-sunk and then covered with wood filler.
  2. Don’t use your Kreg-Jig on MDF; I thought I could make a strong base and have hidden screw holes – not so much.  Follow Ana’s instructions and drill from the outside and then cover afterwards.
DIY Recycling Centre - beginner project

Attach your drawer slides BEFORE building the drawers themselves.

DIY Recycling Centre 3
The drawers for my trash and recycling centre aren’t sitting flush here, but that’s only because I was afraid to push them all the way in and then not be able to pull them back open again.
DIY Recycling Centre 4
This is where the difference between a 17 ¼” wide drawer front and a 17 ¾” wide drawer front shows…. the gap on either side of the drawers would have been much smaller and less noticeable if I’d read through her plans and made the fronts a bit wider.  As it was, the gaps were symmetrical so I didn’t mind too much.  I did have to remind myself that this was a trash and recycling centre after all.
DIY Recycling Centre 5
I added to Ana’s plans by trimming out the front of the drawers with some ¼” MDF scraps we had in the basement.  We have shaker-style cupboards in our kitchen, so mimicking it in the drawer fronts was an easy way to dress it up a bit and keep it cohesive with the look I already had.
Wood filler and sanding and she’s ready to prime!
DIY Recycling Centre 6
I used a couple of different products on this piece than I have in the past and let me tell you I AM SOLD!

The first was this Kilz primer; I’m not a fan of oil based paints or primers because of the tedious clean-up involved (see paint brush cleaner post) – but with MDF being pretty absorbent to water, an oil primer was a much better choice so the wood wouldn’t expand and warp.  Because this recycling centre is going to hold cans and bottles and potentially have moisture inside it, I opted to prime the entire thing inside and out to both protect it and to help stop any mildew that might form.  I used ¾’s of a quart of the primer to cover it all.

DIY Recycling Centre 7
The second new product I used was BEHR’s Marquee line of paint – in Battleship Grey
Behr Marquee - Battleship greyScreen Shot 2016-01-07 at 12.22.42 PM
Did you know that Consumer Reports have this paint ranked as the number 1 brand in North America (2016)“1?  Yup, even over my (old) favourite Benjamin Moore.
After trying it – I will tell you it is the best paint I have ever used – hands down.  Now I’m not positive it’s the paint alone that wowed me, or if it was the combination of the new primer and the paint, but painting this was a breeze – a treat even.  Single coat coverage (although I did use two coats for extra durability), beautiful levelling and I only needed 1/3 of a quart to do two full coats.
Nope – I’m not working for Behr (although I’d totally love to now!) – this is an unsolicited and totally sincere recommendation.
DIY Recycling Centre 8
Isn’t she beautiful?!
I found the recycling bins and handles at Home Depot , but I’ve linked to similar items on Amazon if that’s easier.
DIY Recycling Centre 9
Odie is pleased with his new perching point.
Crisp, clean, contained and easy – what more could you ask for?
DIY Recycling Centre 10
Updated images 2023: 
trash and recycling centre
Yup, my LOMI sits on top making this a one-stop-shop for saving the planet – garbage, recycling and composting in one spot!
trash and recycling centre
My original build was in 2015 – which I thought was just 5 years ago…  turns out my trash and recycling centre is actually 8 years old and still in use every single day!
trash and recycling centre
What do you think?  Worth it?
I think so.
DIY Recycling Centre
If you’re feeling intimidated with trying something this size – just remember that I only learned how to use a mitre saw about 9 months before attempting this build.  Ana White has this DIY trash and recycling centre labelled as a beginner project – and as a beginner at the time (and someone that totally used the cutting services at Lowe’s and Home Depot) I can confirm that you can do this!
trash and recycling centre
Have a great one!