Why your recycled containers must be clean and empty

Have you ever wondered why your containers must be clean and empty to be recycled? And exactly how clean do they need to be? We’ve got the answers.

March 25, 2021

We have co-mingled kerbside recycling bins here in Perth, which means that all recyclable materials go into the same yellow lid bin and are sorted at the recycling facility.

If something is half-full of food or water, it will spill onto the other items. This can ruin the quality of the other materials in the bin such as cardboard and paper. The wet and/or food contaminated items are then destined for landfill instead of a new life.  

But when instructions say containers must be clean, it doesn’t mean dishwasher clean.  

You simply have to remove food scraps from containers, give them a quick rinse if they are dirty and make sure they don't contain liquids.  

When it comes to paper and cardboard - a small amount of grease on a pizza box would be fine, but not great lumps of sauce or cheese!  

Here’s what you should do with your containers:  

  • Remove any lids (there is no need to remove labels).
  • Empty out any remaining liquid.
  • Use a spoon, spatula or paper towel to scrape away as much food residue as you can and add to your compost bucket or put it in the bin.
  • Give the container a quick rinse and shake off the water so other items won’t get wet and throw it in your recycling bin.  
  • You could save up your empty containers until the end of the day and then rinse them all at the same time using water you have already used to wash dishes.  
  • By making sure items are empty and clean you are also preventing mould, smells and pests such as mice, rats, ants and cockroaches.  

No meat trays – ever!

Any plastic container that has contained meat cannot be recycled. This is due to contamination and mixture of materials used to make them, so they should always be placed in your general waste bin. Consider buying your meat from a butcher where it is wrapped in paper or take your own reusable container.  

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