How can we all recycle more? This is not a question that used to pop into my head very frequently. However, after years of fishing recyclable items out of my husband’s and children’s trashcans, the question of how I could get my family members to recycle more was very much on my mind.

My husband, Jeff, loves for things to be tidy, so the idea of making a pile of recyclables to carry to our main kitchen recycling bin was out of the question. The bathroom he uses is smaller than the average public restroom stall, so an additional trashcan was also a problem. Plus, Jeff admits that it was just less work to toss that shampoo bottle, cardboard packaging or shaving cream can in the trash than carry it to another room.

Solecan black-green can

The Solecan. Image courtesy of Solecan.

Our older daughter, who is 4, is starting to understand about recycling thanks to an aggressive sustainability program at her school, but asking her to remember which items can be recycled and to take them to another room was too much. If the recycling can was out of sight, it was out of mind.

The answer was obvious: We needed a small, dual-use can that was affordable enough that we could purchase one for each room in the house. We looked online for small recycling trashcans, but the few on the market were bulky or very expensive (or both). We really could not believe that a good, small, dual-use solution did not exist, but it was true. So, rather than give up, we decided to come up with one of our own.

Jeff and I spent more than a year developing the Solecan, our solution to our family’s recycling problem. The Solecan is exactly what we wanted: a small, affordable, dual-use can. The two halves of the Solecan snap together in the middle, creating a single can with two chambers.

When it is time to empty trash and recyclables separately, you just pull the two halves apart. The connector is a very simple piece of technology called a “snap fit” — the same mechanism that makes a cap snap onto a marker. The snap fit makes the Solecan easy enough for our 4-year-old to use, and because the two halves come in different colors (your choice), it is also easy to remember which side is for trash and which side is for recycling. No more excuses in our family for putting recyclables in the trash!

We are committed to making the Solecan here in the U.S. using recycled plastic. Our commitment to recycling at this level has not come cheap: The mold to make the Solecan costs twice as much here in the U.S. as it would in China. To keep the carbon footprint of the Solecan as small as possible, however, it needs to be manufactured domestically. Plus, sourcing recycled plastic in the variety of colors we anticipate using for the Solecan will be more difficult than using new plastic.

Liz and Jeff Helfrich of Solecan

Solecan co-founders Liz (left) and Jeff Helfrich. Photo courtesy of Solecan.

Jeff and I know that the Solecan has to be a responsible product before it gets into people’s homes, or our message of sustainability will be lost. We have been working with engineers and manufacturers who are experienced at working with sustainable materials and who are as committed to using recycled content as we are.

To create the Solecan, we need a mold that costs $40,000. To raise the funds to buy the mold, we are preselling the Solecan on Kickstarter. We hope that people committed to sustainability will support our project so the Solecan can help people everywhere recycle more.

Liz Helfrich is a recycling fanatic and mother of two future eco-warrior daughters. She previously worked as the costume shop manager for Opera Colorado and garnered her original recycling skills in Boston while picking up an A.B. in History from Harvard University.