START A PETITION 27,000,000 members: the world's largest community for good

Do you need to wash things before recycling?

Do you need to wash things before recycling?

Do I have to get all the peanut butter out of this jar in order for it to be acceptable for recycling? Thanks for all the great information.

Love peanut butter but hate cleaning out the jars? And the worst part is, you’re wondering the whole time: Is this really necessary?

Great question. If the container held food, yes, you are supposed to rinse it. The Web sites of every municipality I visited ask that residents rinse containers before recycling because rinsing helps make the recycling process more efficient at the recycling plant. All impurities, including food scraps, must be separated from the glass, plastic, tin or aluminum to ensure a high quality material that will be used in a new product.

How to Rinse

When rinsing, donít use hot water or soap. Itís not necessary and energy is required to manufacture soap and heat water. Just put a little cold water in the container, put the lid on and shake to loosen food particles from the walls of the container.

If the container held any sort of hazardous or toxic material, it must be cleaned prior to recycling. If it is a non-aerosol container, open it with wire cutters or scissors and air-dry outside. Wearing gloves, swab the inside of the container with rags or recycled paper towels before disposal. Dispose of the rags or paper towels after they have aired outside. Make sure to do this with adequate ventilation, outside if possible, and when appropriate, with a mask.

What happens if I forget to rinse something?

If you donít rinse something out, the recycling plant should catch it, but again, by rinsing youíre helping the recycling process go smoother.
In glass recycling, magnets, screens and vacuum systems separate out metals, labels, bits of plastic, and other impurities before the glass is crushed.

The tin recycling process is made up of a series of chemical and electrical steps which separate, purify, and recover the steel and tin.

In plastic recycling, after the material is granulated into flakes and before they are turned into plastic pellets, the plastic flakes go through a cleaning process.

When aluminum cans are recycled, their coatings and outside decorations are burned off, so any residual food scraps would be burned off then too.

Read more: Blogs, Ask Annie

have you shared this story yet?

go ahead, give it a little love

Annie B. Bond

Annie is a renowned expert in non-toxic and green living. She was named one of the top 20 environmental leaders by Body and Soul Magazine and "the foremost expert on green living." - Body & Soul Magazine, 2009. Learn Annie's latest eco-friendly news on, a website dedicated to healthy and green living.


+ add your own
7:38PM PST on Nov 7, 2013

Martin S. I've heard of places like that. It does depend heavily on your local recycling facility, I believe...

8:54AM PDT on Apr 20, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

4:07AM PDT on Mar 30, 2013

I wash things before adding to the recycle bins because I don't want to attract bugs!!

6:43AM PDT on Sep 29, 2012

good to know--I wonder how much water is used this way vs. having the recycler do it all at once?

5:42AM PDT on Sep 25, 2012

A local company had a talk by a recycling company recently (Grundon I think). They said to NOT wash recyclables as they have very sophisticated machines that do the sorting these days and washing just wastes energy, (not to mention water),

4:42AM PDT on May 23, 2012

Thanks for the info.

1:46PM PDT on Oct 23, 2011


1:45PM PDT on Oct 23, 2011


8:12PM PDT on Aug 17, 2011

Thank You.

3:18PM PDT on Aug 16, 2011

just makes sense... how would your own recyling container smell if nothing was cleaned... image

add your comment

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

people are talking

The products I use contain no fragrance, no petrochemicals and are not tested on animals :)

Employers need to learn to be more flexible if the business allows it.


Select names from your address book   |   Help

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.

site feedback


Problem on this page? Briefly let us know what isn't working for you and we'll try to make it right!