So I’ve had this question for longer than I care to share – how clean do the recyclables I put at the curb need to be? You know, you have the plastics, the cans, the glass, the cardboard and paper – but just how clean does that salsa jar really need to be?  To find the answer, I called my local waste company that manages our curbside recycling and here’s the journey they take:

Our recyclables are gathered together in one by bin by our local waste company.  Their journey takes them to a processing center where they are sorted, first, by type – plastic, paper, aluminum, cardboard and non-recyclable). From there, they are sorted by quality or what you and I would call cleanliness.  The cleanest stuff gets a go ahead while dirtier materials head off to get a better bath.  After that, all materials are given a good basic washing before being recycled. (Wouldn’t you love to see the size of those cleaning machines?!)

Do you need to clean it before you recycle it?  It helps shorten the journey from trash to usable recycled material and it saves on water. So before you chuck the salsa jar into the recycle bin, give it a good rinse – because now you know.