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How Clean Does My Recycling Need To Be?

Do you need to wash or rinse recyclables? How clean does it need to be? Are you wasting your time?

These are really common questions people ask when it comes to making sure to get the recycling process right, without wasting time and water.

How Clean Does Recycling Need To Be

A close friend of mine has recently upped her recycling levels and getting her head around all the rules for kerbside bins and other options to cut back on landfill waste (I'm so proud of her, and a little excited that my passion for trash has inspired her!).

The other day she complained to me.....

Now I'm spending so much time washing my trash to rubbish has never been so clean! I can't deal with some of the items as they are impossible to clean so I just throw them in the bin. I want to recycle BUT it seems too much work. Have you got any tips to save water, time and free up my sink space? What am I supposed to do with pet food tins, it's just so gross!!

This is SUCH a great question and sums up how so many people feel about recycling. There are a lot of rules that can be confusing and conflicting at times, so it's tricky for anyone to work out what to do at times.

In my reply, I explained that these days we don't really wash any recycling because the processing is so much more advanced than it used to be and there's often no need to even rinse!

Plastics, glass and tin recycling processes have progressed a lot, and facilities are generally able to put them through a system to be cleaned and to remove other contamination such as labels.

If you've been washing out pet food tins too, you'll be relieved to know that food tins (including pet food) don't require washing!

The general rule is 'empty & dry' when it comes to tins and any other containers and items.

Always make sure to empty and scrape out any food remnants, and keep in mind it doesn't need to be perfect.

Empty drinks and liquids from bottles should also be tipped out and don't require washing or rinsing to recycle. remember to leave the lids off too.

Washing and rinsing recyclables can use up a lot of water and I'm sure we can all think of better things we'd rather be doing with our time!

Some items I do prefer to rinse certain recyclables, as they can become a bit smelly. If you do want to rinse , make use of your used dishwater - After washing your dishes, this water is perfect for rinsing out items without wasting fresh water.

Skip washing anything you don't plan to keep and reuse!

You don't need to wash recyclables

Aluminium is such an amazing material and really does have a huge impact if you recycle it - you can read a little more information here in this Aluminium fact sheet from Planet Ark - including proof that washing cans is unnecessary.

Recycling juice and milk cartons is also worthwhile and get put into a machine that uses water to break down the packaging so it can be converted into new items. You don't need to clean them, however I rinse and drain my soy milk containers as they usually have a sediment remaining in the bottom that is likely to become mouldy while it waits for collection. You can read a little more about carton recycling here.

Drain cartons in your sink before recylcing

Plastic recycling has got a lot of us panicking about what will happen to it all and the impact on landfill. Although some areas across Australia are having some struggles, remember that Australia DOES actually recycle some plastics and not all of it was being sent to China. Here's the process VISY undertake turning plastics back into plastics and as you will see, they also go through a washing stage.

Keep up the awesome work with your recycling!

Have you got a recycling question you want answered? or a tricky item you can't work out what to do with?

Pop them in the comments below, or you can send me a message if you prefer to be anonymous and I'll try to help

If you're looking for more awesome tips and tricks to reduce your waste, then head here.



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