How Clean Do My Recyclables Need to Be?

image of recycle bins

We think about recycling a lot here at CWRU. Our own crew of Materials Management Workers collect both trash and recycling on campus. We are recycling at a rate of about 22% of our waste but could do so much better. Help keep our recycling as "pure" as possible.

On campus, you have many opportunities to recycle your waste. There are personal recycling bins in every office, receptacles in res hall rooms, solar powered "Big Bellies" outside to compact trash and recycling and so many bins paired with trash cans in hallways and public spaces. You really shouldn't have to go far to find a place to stash your trash.

When you find yourself recycling, you may ask yourself how clean that plastic soda bottle really needs to be. At home, you probably rinse your recyclables before hauling to the curb but in a public place, rinsing is not always feasible. We clean recyclables to keep the value up for recycling companies, to stave off mold, bugs and rats and also to help keep our recycling workers safe and dignified.

We say: do your best. Don't dispose of a half full bottle of energy drink without the lid. Don't make a mess!  Do your best to keep to the rest of the recycling in the same bin "relatively clean." If your energy drink gets all over a piece of cardboard, that cardboard will need to go to the landfill instead of be recycled. So drink all your liquids or dispose of in a sink or water fountain/ refill station. And keep the trash in the trash bin. Don't put the granola bar wrapper in with the recycling  this will contaminate it and decrease the value of that recycling stream. And DO keep the lid on! The lid can be recycled if kept on the bottle. We want our recyclers to have high profits so it's worth it to them to keep recycling!

Here's a Dear Umbra take on the subject from Grist.

Thanks for doing your part! Keep up the great, green work, CWRU!