Fandango’s Provocative Question #169


Welcome once again to Fandango’s Provocative Question. Each week I will pose what I think is a provocative question for your consideration.

By provocative, I don’t mean a question that will cause annoyance or anger. Nor do I mean a question intended to arouse sexual desire or interest.

What I do mean is a question that is likely to get you to think, to be creative, and to provoke a response. Hopefully a positive response.

This past Saturday I wrote a post about recycling empty toothpaste tubes. While I’m pretty diligent about recycling items that I know are recyclable, I’d never thought about doing so with empty toothpaste tubes. I went to my local recycling company’s website and found out that toothpaste tubes are, in fact recyclable. But the website’s instructions for recycling them said to “use warm water and soap to rinse out the rest of the toothpaste.”

I was actually surprised that most who commented on that post said that they do, in fact, recycle their toothpaste tubes. But several commenters pointed out that washing out items that are to be recycled uses a lot of water.

Willowdot21 wrote, “I do all the recycling bits too, but I do begrudge using water to clean them out. I do but it seems so wastefull when so many do not have enough water.”

And Jim Adams wrote, “Each time I wash out a can, bottle, or plastic container, I feel like I am wasting over half a gallon of water. In California where water is more precious, 37 million people can easily waste 37 million gallons of water daily.”

In response to Willowdot’s comment, I wrote, “We are in a drought [in California], so that’s a consideration. And to Jim’s comment I wrote, “I’m not sure if thoroughly washing those items to be recycled is more environmentally smart than just tossing items like used toothpaste tubes in the regular trash and saving all that water.”

And then Jim commented, “This might make a nice Provocative Question for you to ask.”

So here we are and my question is about choices we make.

Most recycling programs instruct us to thoroughly wash and dry the items (other than paper or cardboard) before putting them in the recycling bin. If you lived in an area that is suffering from a severe drought (as I do), would you choose to waste the water necessary to comply with those instructions, would you ignore them and throw unwashed items in the recycling bin, or would you put recyclable but unwashed items in the trash (landfill) bin?

If you choose to participate, write a post with your response to the question. Once you are done, tag your post with #FPQ and create a pingback to this post if you are on WordPress. Or you can simply include a link to your post in the comments. But remember to check to confirm that your pingback or your link shows up in the comments.

26 thoughts on “Fandango’s Provocative Question #169

  1. donmatthewspoetry June 15, 2022 / 3:10 am

    I can’t believe one would feel ‘comfortable’ throwing a dirty recyclable into landfill.

    I work in other people’s places and see obvious recyclables in the landfill bin. Laziness. We’ve had years in education-mode…..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sadje June 15, 2022 / 3:37 am

    Unfortunately, in Pakistan, we still have to do recycling properly. We do save newspapers and old papers/books which are sold by vendors at nominal price. The glass bottles and cardboard is collected by people who go through the trash and later sell them to make some money. I wish we had proper recycling facility here as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mister Bump UK June 15, 2022 / 4:09 am

    Why do they want it washed in the first place? I mean, presumably there is a reason?
    So, if you don’t wash it, doesn’t that just mean that they will? So, there’s no net gain or loss of water?
    I don’t know the answer to this, but they certainly use machines to sort things. And for a while they couldn’t recognise the wrong-coloured plastic. Do you think it mnight be something to do with that?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango June 15, 2022 / 8:30 am

      I don’t know, but washing the inside of a used tube of toothpaste might be a bridge too far.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mister Bump UK June 15, 2022 / 11:14 am

        I’m justthinking, I wonder if they don’t wash it anyway?
        There is a serious problem here because we don’t know how recycling happens or where it ends up. There have certainly been instances here of councils just sending it abroad.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Marleen June 15, 2022 / 11:42 am

          It’s largely sent abroad, here, too. And there was a big story, during the Drumpf administration, of China deciding to refuse much of what they had accepted from us. Additionally, reports have said they (here or abroad) often put it in the trash anyway when it gets to the processing locations.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Nope, Not Pam June 15, 2022 / 4:09 am

    Not many people wash their recycling where I live. What normally happens is cardboard is recycled, the rest ends up in the normal bin.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. bushboy June 15, 2022 / 4:30 am

    This is a no brainer. I have all the recyclables ready for the once a day washing up and after the washing up is finished, I was the recycling items. They don’t need clean water just as long as the contents of the product are clean.
    I am on tank water so all the water I use I have to collect from rainfall so every drop counts even more so in drought times.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Paula Light June 15, 2022 / 4:55 am

    So far, I am not required to separate trash, though I think that’s coming soon. Until it does, I don’t wash the garbage…


  7. Melanie B Cee June 15, 2022 / 10:00 am

    I don’t see the sense in washing up a container that’s going to be recycled. I do see the sense in rinsing those times out, particularly those (like bleach) that have had chemicals in them, but really? What’s the point to it? The thing is going to be recycled presumably, and I’m sure they sanitize the new item because that’s just how things are done now. Duplication of effort is wasted effort. I like Bushboy’s idea and that’s the sort of thing I do too. The water is repurposed so it’s not wasted on a pointless activity.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Marilyn Armstrong June 15, 2022 / 11:38 am

    It isn’t necessarily laziness. We don’t have nearly enough recycling plants anywhere in this country. We haven’t built them because they weren’t making a profit, so no matter how badly we need recycling, if it ain’t making big bucks? Well, you know the story, right?

    I actually wrote about this a few weeks ago because I was wondering if we actually had much in the way of recycling in this state and the answer is NO, we must assuredly do NOT have anything near the number of plants we need. In our town, we don’t even have a dump because they turned it into a solar energy field which is great for the electricity people, but not so great for us because there is nowhere to get rid of the big trash that the trash collectors won’t accept. It can cost you more to get rid of trash than it cost you to buy it new. We have two old toilets that they want $200 EACH to collect. Since they are made of porcelain and are completely non hazardous, we will let them be buried by leaves and compost in the woods and the small creatures will nest in them.

    We aren’t serious about climate change which means we aren’t serious about recycling. The U.S. is not doing ANYTHING meaningful about the environment. Tragedy awaits us.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The Autistic Composter June 15, 2022 / 12:17 pm

    Pee on it or wash it in the grey water, a rinse is all that is needed. Unless they are going to charge you, then again pee on it or wash with grey waters.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Marleen June 15, 2022 / 12:24 pm

    I have a recycling bin and a trash bin (except at the house where my mom lives because she wouldn’t bother and too many greater concerns are there surrounding other things in her life). I don’t fill both every week, here, but sometimes do. I don’t believe the recycling is really being recycled. (Metal and glass do not go into the bin, are not accepted therein. I DO believe that the metal and glass items taken to specific places for these materials rather than conveniently tossed into the bin are being recycled.) Even though I think the bin recycling rather pointless, I go through the motions.

    However, I would not waste water on the toothpaste tube (unless I’m not wasting in that I’m going with the BUSHBOY method). Additionally, many food and drink lids used to have recycling symbols on them. It was inconvenient to go through taking the straw out and cleaning the lid (for fast food drinks) or tending to a tiny little thing (for food sauces). Right around the time I decided it was silly, I then noticed these lids no longer have recycling symbols. So, you take the soda/tea/smoothie top, straw and all, and… into the trash. But the plastic cup part is still recyclable.

    The recycling truck is coming around the neighborhood no matter what I decide. Where my mom lives, the truck would be coming down a long drive especially for the one house, so any trade off wouldn’t add up anyway. When taking glass and metal, a special trip is less helpful than taking the stuff along when you are going out for grocery shopping or something. With regard to metal, don’t forget to include the soda/beer tabs (discourage visitors from screwing around and throwing those away). I wonder if the fat lids for the toothpaste tubes are recyclable. I’d do that piece, easily.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marleen June 15, 2022 / 2:04 pm

      Added provisios: thoroughly wash and dry? Never. I am mindful of dripping off excess and air drying to an extent that won’t make a mess or grow mold or bacteria. (I’m very mindful of mold, mildew, et cetera.)

      As to straws, I don’t automatically use the given straw. I (usually but not always) save it in case there is some actual need as preference in a particular situation future. I often use a metal or other reusable straw (especially use straws in the car), and I have a skinny straw brush. Or I use no straw at all.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. kajmeister26 June 15, 2022 / 8:21 pm

    The plot thickens. I recently went up to my local waste site (for Alameda Country) and the rules have shifted in the last couple of years. Now, these rules say that you should empty out food liquid but don’t need to wash bottles, cans and such. However, milk cartons (takeout containers and Starbucks cups) aren’t recyclable or compostable and compostable cutlery should be composted because it isn’t really… So the moral of the story is that every one should check their most local waste management group for rules, because those rules will differ from state to state, county country. Whatever you do though, don’t put plastic bags in with your recyclables, because that really mucks up the whole works, regardless of your county.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango June 15, 2022 / 10:23 pm

      Yes, the rules are different from town to town and they do change from time to time.


    • Marleen June 16, 2022 / 1:11 am

      Plastic bags are good to use in bathroom trash cans. There get to be too many, though. This is another item that can be taken specifically for recycling — some grocery stores will accept them — in their own world.

      I am going to check locally about bottles and cans on that rinsing update. Makes sense, and I want it confirmed here. I’d probably still rinse ever so lightly, to keep the smell down. But it would be nice to go that route.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Carol anne June 16, 2022 / 9:58 pm

    I would not wash them out, I would just throw them in the normal trash can!

    Liked by 1 person

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