Do Recycled Items Need To Be Clean – Placing recyclables in plastic bags creates problems. The internal recycling cannot be adjusted properly and the bags can get tangled in the machine. As a result, recyclable materials are transported to lines selected by workers and sent to landfills. It’s a good idea to store recycled content in your storage.
Recycling helps reduce pollution, conserve energy, protect the environment and support local businesses and jobs. Follow these tips to make sure your returns don’t go to waste.
Do Recycled Items Need To Be Clean
Drain, clean or dispose of debris, make sure paper and cardboard are dry and your recycling bin can be kept out of the rain.
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Even items marked for recycling may not be accepted for recycling in your program or state.
Check the recycling instructions to make sure you are placing the correct materials in your recycling bin. Placing prohibited materials in the recycling bin can put workers at risk, increase the cost of recycling and reduce the value of other recyclables.
Recyclers are not necessarily dishwasher safe. Drain them, give them a quick rinse, shake off the water and voila! You are good to go!
Start throwing food scraps in the bin or trash. Then close the container until the dishes are done and use your dirty water. This way you will take advantage of the water that comes down from the river. If you don’t have detergent, don’t use hot water, cold water will do. After washing, shake off the water and put it in the bin to prevent other items from getting wet!
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Cities, counties and local recycling companies work hard to ensure that all items accepted in recycling programs are recycled. Although new international recycling standards have affected the system, materials that are approved in your local program are sent empty, clean and dry to recycling markets and made new.
Cleaning materials become very important for recyclers. Recycling centers do not clean recyclables. Food left in the recycling can thicken and attract bacteria, worms and insects, making the material less acceptable for recycling. Liquids left in recycling can flow onto paper and cardboard and cannot be used. These are disposable materials. When you remove, clean and dry recyclables, you remove food and water from storage and allow the recycling to cool.
Removing the food with a spatula or paper towel may be enough to clean the container without water. If that doesn’t work, then the cleaning method is to reduce water use and fill the container with water, let it sit and shake before pouring the rest of the water down the sink. Remember that recycling also avoids the use of energy needed to extract and manufacture raw materials and conserve natural resources such as water, wood and minerals.
After emptying, washing and shaking out the recycling waste water, it is not a good thing to have water droplets left when you throw it in the recycling bin. The key is not to leave half-full pop bottles or spill drinks on cardboard and recycled paper, rendering useless and ruining all your hard work. Also remember to keep your recycling bin closed so rain or snow doesn’t get anything wet.
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Once they leave your home, your recyclables are taken to a recycling facility (MRF – spelled “smurf” in rhyme). At the MRF, material is thrown onto conveyor belts as workers try to remove material that cannot be recycled and could damage equipment, reduce the cost of other products, or become unusable. The rest of the equipment is strictly regulated. However, this is not an exact science. If the items entering the MRF contain a lot of non-recyclable materials, many of them will process and not sell the finished products to the manufacturer and make a new product.
Common non-reusable items found in recycling bins include plastic bags, plastic wrap and film, beverages, food, dirty paint, garden hoses, wire hangers, diapers, electronics, light bulbs and batteries. Most of these items can be recycled separately, but NOT in the recycling bin.
What is acceptable to recycle in your curbside bin varies depending on where you live. For specific product information, check with your recycling program. Visit or call 1-800-RECYCLE for items that are not next to you or hard to recycle items such as batteries, electronics, household hazardous waste such as pharmaceuticals or chemicals. But there are some important tricks of the trade. One of the most common concerns about recycling is knowing how good the recyclables need to be before you throw them in the trash.
Detergents can disrupt other recycling methods, but should you wash the sour cream out of the container before recycling it? Is it different for each type of recycling?
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Although guidelines vary by location, here’s a guide to help determine the cleanliness level of reusable items.
As a general rule, for things like bottles and glasses, a quick rinse is sufficient. You don’t need to wash off the residue in a bowl of mayonnaise and soap before fixing it, and a few stains won’t hurt.
For most things, just fill the container with water and vigorously shake the water inside. (Or better yet, use the rest of the dishwashing liquid before washing.) If the residue is sticky like jelly or honey, you may need to use a brush or squeegee to remove most of the product.
If you have mixed recycling, make sure it is dry before putting it in the bins and other recyclables.
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Note that grease and oil make cardboard and paper unfit for use, so greased pizza boxes should not go in the recycling bin. However, if the box is very clean with small particles of oil, it is better to renew it.
(Update: A 2020 study found that some of the oil in a pizza box does not interfere with recyclable fiber. As a result, some municipalities have accepted pizza boxes for recycling. Follow local recycling guidelines.)
The same applies to other pollutants. If you make pancakes with an egg drop in the bottom of the box, it’s okay to throw it back. However, too much confusion is unlikely to lead to reforms. Same with wet and moldy paper. Make sure all paper and cardboard in the recycling bin is dry and clean.
In addition, crumpled, torn or poorly made paper and cardboard can be recycled in the same way as plastic products. However, ripped or torn paper should not go in your recycling bin. Not only will it explode and create debris, but it will also create a mess at the recycling center where the recycling is separated. Check with your local recycling office for local guidelines on paper recycling. It may not be acceptable for kerbside recycling, or you may need to place the shredded paper inside a paper bag before putting it in your recycling bin.
Recycling & Reuse Guide
Plastic bags and films must be dry and clean. Again, small pieces, such as breadcrumbs, that are left in a plastic bag will not enter the recycling process. In most cases, you can simply shake the bags before reusing them. This easily handles the hard parts inside the bag.
If the sandwich bag has a sticky film or residue, such as peanuts or mustard, wash it. After washing plastic bags, make sure the bags are completely dry before reusing them, as excess water can inhibit the decomposition process during recycling.
Please note that in most cases you cannot put plastic bags or plastic film in your kerbside bin because they fill the machine at the recycling centre. However, you can find bins to recycle your plastic bags in most supermarkets and grocery stores. As always, check your local recycling guidelines.
Unfortunately, some things cannot be replaced and should just be thrown away. Items that are too dirty or impossible to clean cannot be returned.
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It is very important to properly organize your recycling and make the process as easy as possible for your city. If you need more information about the correct recycling method, talk to your local recycling centre.
Jenna is a freelance writer and business consultant covering business, technology and entrepreneurship. He studied at several universities and worked with more than 100 companies in the last 15 years. She is a mother of two and loves to go camping, hiking and skiing with her family. Aluminum cans are tied up in large bins at one of Chicago’s recycling centers, waiting to be moved to a container and delivered elsewhere.
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