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Why Rinse Recyclables
Reasons for Rinsing Recyclables & How to Use Less Water Doing It

    Wise water use is on everyone’s mind in Mariposa. If you’re trying to conserve water, rinsing recyclables may seem like a waste of a precious resource. Even if you’re not watching every drop, scrubbing stuck-on goop from peanut butter and jelly jars may seem like a gigantic waste of time.

    There are several sound reasons for rinsing and ways to reduce wasting water when you do it.


  1. Food contaminated containers in recycling bins produce odors that can be offensive to you and your neighbors but irresistible to ants, roaches, mice, rats, raccoons, bears and other critters. Bees are attracted to sugary residues inside soda cans, honey jars, syrup bottles, etc.. The conditions are also often ideal for the growth of mold.
  2. Customers at County transfer stations are allowed to co-mingle their recyclables. Cooking oil, soda, alcohol and loose food can contaminate other materials in the roll-off containers, such as paper and cardboard, making them unsuitable for recycling.
  3. After recyclables leave Mariposa, they are baled and often stored for long periods of time in warehouses awaiting shipment to processing plants. Food contaminated materials can attract unwanted vectors (see #1 above) and present a health hazard to workers.


  1. Use leftover dish water. Soap does not have to be rinsed off.
  2. If you don’t wash dishes by hand, put a little water in a plastic tub. Containers do not have to be sparkling clean. Pour dirty water onto your compost pile. (Let it cool first if you use hot water.)
  3. When you’re running water to let it heat up, catch it in a container and use it to rinse recyclables.
  4. If you are reluctant to use water for rinsing, scrape out as much residue as you can with a rubber spatula before placing containers in your recycling bins.

     Keep in mind that you are helping to conserve water by the mere act of recycling. For example:

  • Using recycled aluminum, rather than bauxite, to make aluminum cans and other products cuts water use by 95%,
  • 60% less water is used to make paper from recycled paper rather than trees.
  • Making bottles from recycled glass rather than silica reduces water use by 50%.
  • Recycled steel takes about 40% less water to make than making it from iron ore and coking coal. ( )

     Cutting down on the number of containers you use also helps conserve water About 75 million tons of packaging materials are generated in the United States each year. About 39 million tons, primarily cardboard, are recovered and recycled. The remaining 35 tons is discarded (this figure includes materials burned with energy recovery). ( )

     Just say no to excess packaging by: buying in bulk; cooking from scratch rather than buying packaged foods; using reusable products such as cloth napkins and sponges or rags instead of paper napkins and towels; reusing plastic produce bags; and, using reusable shopping bags. Make a statement to manufacturers by buying products packed in a minimum amount of recycled, recyclable or compostable materials. 

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