Why we must rinse our recyclables


My husband keeps asking me if it’s wise to rinse our recyclables given that we are often in a state of drought. Of course we reuse most of our jars and bottles, which need to be cleaned so they can be easily refilled. For containers we send to the dry waste centres, these are the standard reasons to clean out your milk packets and other such items:

  1. So the waste you took the time to segregate doesn’t land up in the landfill instead
  2. It keeps it from smelling in your house and at the collection centre
  3. It keeps bugs and other animals away from your trash
  4. It helps prevent waste workers from developing health problems from skin infections to diarrhea to any other number of problems that get compounded when your recyclables are dirty
  5. Finally, it turns out that it actually saves water if you rinse and recycle:

It turns out that recycling actually saves water. This is because the extraction of virgin raw materials and manufacturing them into single use packaging uses quite a bit of water. Recycling reduces the need for materials from virgin sources and therefore reduces water use.

For some help on the numbers I turned to James Norman, a life cycle analysis expert and the Director of Research at Planet Metrics. A small mason jar weighing 185 grams requires about 1.5 liters of water to manufacture from virgin materials and a 200 gram “tin” can requires 9.2 (steel) or 13.7 liters (aluminum) of water to manufacture from virgin materials!

For those who are worried about using precious water, you can save your grey water from dishwashing and reuse that:

Save the wash water from your last sinkful of dishes, pour some in the container, pop on the cap, and shake ‘til clean. This shouldn’t take anywhere near an extra gallon, and you’re recycling water to boot.


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