Rinsing Recyclables: Is It Worth It?

By Rachael on October 19, 2017

It’s a pretty common best practice to rinse that plastic tub or aluminum can before you toss it in your recycling cart, but some question if it’s really necessary. At Granger, we ask you to rinse bottles, jugs and tubs, and here are a few reasons why:

  • Residue or liquids left in containers can contaminate other items. With single-stream recycling, containers are transported with materials like cardboard and paper. Anything left in your containers can leak out onto these other materials and decrease (or eliminate) their value as well.
  • It keeps smells and animals away. Most recyclables are stored for a bit (either in a building or outside) before being processed. Recyclables that aren’t rinsed can start to smell and can even attract pests. Your friendly recycling center worker will definitely be the first to thank you for rinsing before you recycle.
  • Generally speaking, cleaner recyclables are worth more. Why should you care? That’s the easy part. The ability to continue a recycling program stems, in large part, on money from the sale of recyclables. The more the value of the materials is diminished, the more the program struggles.

But what about the water issue? Here in Michigan, we don’t have any of the problems with drought that people in drier states have, but that doesn’t mean we want to waste water.

Here are a few tips for keeping your recyclables clean without draining the Great Lakes:

  • Don’t be a perfectionist. You don’t have to remove every last speck of peanut butter from the jar. Just make sure it’s reasonably clean.
  • Instead of rinsing, wipe out your recyclables with a reusable cloth, napkin or paper towel. No one’s going to be eating or drinking off your recyclables; they don’t have to be that clean.
  • Rinse with used dish water. Again, your cans, bottles and tubs don’t need to be sanitized, so rinsing with “used” water is perfectly acceptable.
  • Kill two birds with one stone. When your shampoos and soaps are getting low, pour a little water in the bottle. Not only will the diluted version last longer, it will be rinsing the bottle out as you use it.

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