I just cleaned out my pantry and refrigerator big time and found so many bottles of old salad dressing, unopened gift jams and bottles of hot sauce/teriyaki sauces, etc that were gifts, too. Now they are expired. I wondered about the effort of emptying and cleaning them in order to recycle the glass or plastic vs the running water/sending it into the disposal/water system–which is more environmental? It just kills me to throw glass or plastic out filled with unused food, so I mostly did clean and recycle. But I wondered the pros and cons. Opinion?
I’m with you. I would clean and reuse or recycle.
Glass is infinitely recyclable without loss of purity or quality. In other words, a glass bottle or jar can be recycled over and over again without losing its integrity. According to the Glass Packaging Institute, recycling just one glass bottle saves enough energy to light a 100-watt light bulb for four hours, power a computer for 30 minutes, or a television for 20 minutes. I was also pleased to read that “glass container manufacturers have set a goal to achieve 50% recycled content in the manufacture of new glass bottles by 2013. Using 50% recycled glass to make new glass containers would save enough energy to power 21,978 homes for one year and remove 181,550 tons of waste from landfills every month.”
Of course, you want to be as efficient as possible preparing your glass bottles and jars for recycling. You can easily minimize the amount of water used to rinse by dumping all of the contents first then rinsing the bottles one right after the other. Definitely don’t leave the water running as you dump and rinse.
You can also reuse glass jars to buy and store bulk items, like oats, flour, beans, nuts and candies. Check out this example of my own cabinet at home. Doesn’t one side look much more organized than the other?