I always wash out my recyclables. This is mostly because I put them in an open bin in my kitchen, which I don’t want reeking of sour beer and mayonnaise residue. But I also liked to think that I was making the job of some recycling-center worker an iota less miserable by giving him or her clean stuff to handle.
Of course, being a guilt-ridden liberal, I worried occasionally that the water I was using, and the gas that heated it, made trash-washing an environmental negative. Lo and behold, Slate magazine addressed this very issue. The writer equivocates a little but, in the end, comes down on the pro-washing side, on sanitary grounds. The article even includes a quote from a recycling center worker: “It sure is appreciated when people take a minute or two to wash [their food cans]...it's a real day-wrecker when someone throws up because of the horrible smell.”
That made me feel better. Maybe I’ll take the next step and start driving stuff to the recycling center myself. Or would the gas increase my carbon footprint?