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Do You Have to Clean Recyclables? Exploring Best Practices

Recycling is an important part of saving our environment. The more we recycle, the less garbage we send to landfills and incineration plants. Recycling also plays a role in saving production and energy costs by reusing materials we have already produced.

That being said, it is important to be mindful of what we are recycling so that we do more help than harm. Did you know that improper recycling due to ignorance or carelessness can send 25% or more of our recyclables to the landfill? Read on to learn more about how to properly clean your recyclables.

Why is it important to clean my recyclables?

Cleaning your recyclables is vital to preventing recycling contamination, which causes otherwise recyclable materials to end up in landfills. Recycling contamination can also cause recycling to become more expensive as more money, time, and effort are required to separate the contaminants.

In addition, the quality of recyclable byproducts decreases when they are corrupted by contaminated materials, such as leftover food or other non-recyclable remnants. Machinery at recycling facilities isn’t equipped to efficiently sort out contaminated materials, which leaves the responsibility to us.

Fortunately, there are a few quick and easy ways that you can clean your recyclables before you place them in the bin.

What items can be recycled?

At Royal Waste, we provide a single-stream recycling system, meaning that all recyclables can be placed in a single bin for curbside pickup. The materials are then moved by truck to a local facility where they are sorted further. Here are a few of the most commonly accepted recyclables:


Many kinds of household metals are acceptable for recycling. This includes items such as metal cans, empty paint cans, metal caps, and metal lids.

Rigid Plastics

Rigid plastics, such as plastic bottles, jugs, jars, cartons, and lids, are all acceptable for recycling. Plastic food containers, such as yogurt containers, “clamshell” containers, or dairy tubs, are also acceptable.


Many kinds of cardboard are accepted curbside, including cardboard boxes, egg cartons, trays, shoe boxes, tubes, file folders, and more.


Many kinds of paper products are also acceptable curbside. This includes copy paper, newspapers, magazines, phone books, mail, and envelopes. However, this also includes less common types of paper, like wrapping paper, soft-cover books, paper bags, and even receipts.

How do I properly clean my recyclables?

Cleaning your recyclables takes minimal time and effort and can have a significant impact.

First, make sure to empty any bottles, containers, boxes, or cups of remaining food or liquid inside. Next, give the item a quick rinse and swish to eliminate the majority of the residue.

Your items don’t need to be dishwasher clean, but they should be free from most residue. For the most stubborn residue, like peanut butter, take a spoon or sponge and scrape off as much as possible before placing your item in the bin.

For paper and cardboard items like pizza boxes, please note that they can only be recycled if they are not soiled with grease or other food residues. Consider recycling pizza boxes only after a soiled liner is removed or only recycling the top half of the pizza box if the bottom is greasy.

How Can Royal Waste Help?

At Royal Waste, sustainability is at the forefront of everything we do. We utilize only the most advanced waste diversion strategies for your business. Whether you’re a small restaurant, retailer, hotel, or large commercial office building, Royal Waste understands every industry’s unique needs.

Striving to create environmentally responsible recycling solutions for all our clients, Royal Waste removes waste from your location and helps convert it to new products and commodities wherever possible. We offer curbside recycling pickup, organic recycling/composting, container service, bulk waste removal, and more to meet your business’s needs. Give us a call today, and we’ll take it from there!

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