Thursday, June 18, 2009

Should I Wash My Recyclables?

The Green Lantern says aside from removing big chunks that would rot and make life unpleasant for the sanitation workers, no.

"Recycling facilities are well equipped to handle dirty cans and bottles, so some caked-on tomato sauce and the occasional stray chickpea won't significantly hinder the process."

And more importantly:

"Rather than worrying yourself into a tizzy over how to clean out your Coke bottles, here's an even better idea: Why not try cutting down on packaging in general? Recycling is only the third R in the waste-management hierarchy, after all—reducing and reusing are even better. According to the EPA, Americans generated 254 million tons (PDF) of municipal solid waste in 2007. (That's everyday, nonindustrial trash.) Containers and packaging made up the biggest fraction of that waste—30.9 percent, or 78.4 million tons. Nearly half of that amount ended up being recycled, but it would be better if we had less packaging to begin with. After all, disposal is only part of the equation—there are also significant environmental costs that come with manufacturing those boxes, cans, and bottles. In fact, a widely cited 1992 study by the Boston-based Tellus Institute found that 99 percent of the environmental harm caused by packaging came from its production, not its disposal. Even when you factor in 17 years of greener design and fabrication, it's clear that reducing our dependency on individually wrapped single servings is a laudable goal. And—major bonus—if you don't buy it in the first place, you don't have to worry about cleaning it when you're done."

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