Sometimes it can seem ironic than in preparing items for recycling one needs to use fresh water – a precious and rapidly depleting resource – to rinse and clean them.
Is this water being wasted? And if we are using water to diligently clean out all those recyclables, would we be be better off just chucking them in the trash and conserving this valuable resource?
It’s a valid question, especially as parts of the country regularly experience severe droughts. Yet according to a study by Northwestern University, preparing items for recycling uses far less water than it would take to produce the same items new.
- On average we use 3-10 times less water to recycle metal items than it takes to churn out new ones.
- Similarly, each glass bottle you recycle saves approximately 2 pints of water, and though the water savings vary depending on the size and type of plastic container, recycling comes out a winner here, too.
Recycling not only conserves the water it would take to produce new items, but also eliminates the energy and emissions required in their manufacture, so it’s a win-win situation all around.
Rinsing make sense when you look at the numbers, but it also helps ensure that your recycling actually gets recycled. The fact is that just one improperly cleaned can or bottle has the potential to jeopardize an entire batch of recycling. Contaminated containers may have to be separated and sanitized, which can add to the overall cost of recycling – and if they are too badly soiled they may have to be thrown out altogether.
Furthermore, if you forget to wash out that can of black beans, it could leak all over any paper in the recycling bin, necessitating the need for that to be thrown out, too.
The best way to ensure that those tin cans and salsa con queso jars are ready for recycling is to check with the guidelines of your local recycling facility. Instructions for removing labels, washing and separating items can differ depending where you live, so familiarizing yourself with your local program can save everyone a few headaches down the road.
Recycling made easy
Using Earth911’s recycling search makes it a cinch to track down recycling locations in the United States, and you can also educate yourself
- by contacting your municipality for a detailed guide about what you can recycle
- whether you need to separate it or not, and
- how to best prepare containers to be reborn as something new.
Bottom line? Rinse that recycling! It’s worth it.
Feature image courtesy of David Tames