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May 25, 2021

Houston, TX – How Clean Should My Recyclables Be Before Recycling Them?

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Sadly, sitting in a landfill are many recyclables.  Even if we tried to retrieve them, some 25% of all recyclables would be useless because they have been contaminated.  The recycling system, while valuable, isn’t perfect.  In addition to many recyclable products ending up in recycling bins, these recycling bins are also filled to the brim with dirty, soggy containers and boxes.  It falls on us, the consumers to do our due diligence and ensure recyclables are properly cleaned and ready for the bin.

Why Should Recyclables Be Cleaned?

Contamination for recyclables is considered anything that reduces the value of the recyclable.  When recycling companies that handle recycling must sort through and dispose of any recyclables that can’t be salvaged at their own expense, filling landfills with what could have been reused.  Worse still, common practice among recycling companies is to transfer contamination fees to the office recycling program, essentially charging commercial businesses for the loss.  One single jar of sauce can ruin a whole bin of recycling and ruin the integrity of the product.  If kept clean and dry, one single sheet of paper can be reused 4 to 6 times.  But when ruined, the fibers become brittle and begin to fall apart, resulting in an almost zero percent recyclability.  As a common rule, cardboard should be crisp, not soggy, and plastic, while rinsed and cleaned at a recycling facility, should be fairly free from dirt and grime.

Four Steps to Prepping Recycling

  1. Empty the bottles, boxes, or containers of all food or liquid.
  2. Rinse the majority of the residue out that can stick to plastic or glass.  Warm water helps remove excess residue.
  3. Swish around the water to loosen up debris.  Skip this step for cardboard or paper products.
  4. Shake or dry the recyclables after a rinse so that water doesn’t get on the paper product.  Close the lid to the recycling bin to prevent rain from ruining any recyclables.
  5. Scrape off any stubborn residue remaining with a spoon or sponge.

In just a few simple steps, your recyclables can go from trash to treasure. For more information about commercial recycling or to schedule your recycling pickup, contact Mission Recycle.

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