Even for the most eco-minded among us there are often lingering questions when it comes to recycling. “Can I put that used pizza box in the recycling bin?” is a big one. Also, “Do I need to rinse that plastic tub or that glass jar?” is another common one. Let’s get to the bottom of these mysteries, shall we?
Thanks to Earth911.com, they have solved the pizza box puzzle for us in a recent excellent piece on that topic. I knew that you can throw out clean cardboard, but you can’t throw out a pizza box that has cheeze and sauce remnants on it. But I didn’t know WHY– and now you can too! Here’s the scoop:
“Food is one of the worst contaminants in the paper recycling process. Grease and oil are not as big of a problem for plastic, metal and glass, as those materials are recycled using a heat process. But when paper products, like cardboard, are recycled, they are mixed with water and turned into a slurry. Since we all know water and oil don’t mix, the issue is clear.”
So if you are able to rip out the parts with food trash on them, then good on you. If not, sadly that cheesy box needs to go in the trash. So sad.
Now on to the rinse-out questions. Keep in mind that glass and metal are both more recyclable than plastic– with plastic you have to check the numbers on the containers and make sure your local recycling accepts those types of plastic.) For both glass and metal: you do not have to clean the heck out of them before throwing them in your bin. You also don’t have to remove labels. The heat used in the recycling process deals with contaminants easily– and you get to save water!
For plastic you do need to rinse it more thoroughly. Oils and food debris foul up the plastic recycling process. So give those tubs a good rinse– and do a particularly good job if there are cleaning or hazardous materials in there.
What about recycling Styrofoam? Earth911.com has done an excellent piece on this as well– read about recycling Styrofoam here. As you guessed, it’s not an easy answer. It depends on where you live– in Los Angeles for instance we can toss our clean Styrofoam right in our recycling bin. But that is definitely not the case in a lot of cities. As always, you need to check with your municipal waste service for clear recycling guidelines.
Click here to read our full recycling guide– it covers batteries, paint, and much more. Or if you’re looking for a recycling center in your area, search our nationwide database of recycling centers. Thank you for all of your hard work to recycle to the max!