Dear Trish and Tabitha,
My question is about food containers. To what extent do I need to rinse a container that has food in it? Why does having food on/in the item even matter? If a cardboard food container has a plastic coating on it, can I still recycle it?
These are very good questions and a topic that is debated by everyone that eats and recycles (which we hope is EVERYONE) in Haldimand County! It’s true, you must clean your containers and make sure your fibres are clean before recycling. When we say this, we mean you must ensure that items are free of food, liquid, and residue before placing them in your recycling boxes. But WHY you ask?
Containers/fibres with contents remaining can damage the machinery at the processing facility where they are taken. Also, if residue is left in an item (e.g: peanut butter in a peanut butter jar), its heavier weight may result in the item being sorted improperly. What this means is that if a peanut butter container that has peanut butter in it is going down the sorting conveyer at a high speed, the container may be too heavy to be detected by the automated sorter. This could cause the jar to not be recycled at all or be improperly sorted, causing contamination of other items. Just a few spoonfuls of peanut butter that ends up in with paper items, for instance, can contaminate 1 tonne of paper and make it unrecyclable! Same for that glob of yogurt left in the bottom of the container.
As for your last question, cardboard with layers of other materials other then cardboard is, unfortunately, not recyclable.
Thanks KC for taking the time to ask these questions! Keep ‘em coming!
This column is in partnership with Haldimand County’s Solid Waste Operations division. Submit your waste and recycling-related questions to email@example.com to see them answered in this column.