How clean do recyclables need to be?

We are in a severe drought here in the southwest. So, should I be using water to rinse out my soda cans?

You should still rinse them, but the amount of water needed isn’t great. Just a little bit inside, cover it, give it a quick shake or three, dump it out. Assuming the contents have been completely consumed, it should be fine.

That being said, recycling programs differ greatly from city to city, you may want to ask your local recycling center. They may very well say that you don’t really need to wash them.

What about something more difficult to wash like a plastic peanut butter jar? That would require quite a bit of water and soap to come close to being clean.

I use a paper towel. You may have to cut the jar open with some strong kitchen shears if the jar is small or your hands are large.

So now we are wasting trees?

While it may not be the optimal solution, a paper towel in the trash is considerably less problematic than a plastic jar in the trash.

You’re the one averse to using water. You could just scoop it out with your hands or a cloth towel, but then you’d have to wash that with water, wouldn’t you?

A single paper towel is fairly insignificant, especially considering that you are most likely not going to be wiping out peanut butter jars frequently.

I usually just throw out anything like a peanut butter jar that can’t be rinsed out. Keep in mind that the amount of plastic involved is minimal.

Some recycling programs can be downright draconian about these things. My town’s recycling and waste management service will not accept a plastic anything unless it has been at least superficially cleaned and set out with similar plastics. Any deviation from this rule will result in a stern warning stapled to the bag, which is left on your doorstep, usually after sitting out in the morning dew and rain to get extra soggy and gross.