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.


Belle W.
Belle W5 years ago

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

Duane B.
.5 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe5 years ago

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

J.L. A.
JL A6 years ago

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

Martin S.
Martin Stanworth6 years ago

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),

Donna Hamilton
Donna Hamilton6 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Chris Ray
Chris R7 years ago


Chris Ray
Chris R7 years ago


Ruth R.
Ruth R7 years ago

Thank You.

Darla G.
Darla G.7 years ago

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