How to Clean a Recycling Bin
Recycling keeps waste out of landfills and continues to grow in popularity in the United States. Before 1990, only 15 percent of recyclable trash was separated. By 2018, the latest provided statistics from the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, the amount had grown to 32.1 percent. By following the guidelines of your local municipality, recycling is simple once you adopt the practice of sorting disposables.
Whether you use separate recycling bins for paper, glass, and plastic or they are placed in one container, regular cleaning is important to prevent odors and to keep pests like insects and animals away. There are professional services that you can hire to steam clean your trash cans and recycling bins on a regular schedule. But, if you don't want to hire a professional, you can clean recycling bins with just a few household products and a bit of time.
How Often to Clean a Recycling Bin
Recycling containers should be thoroughly cleaned along with all types of trash cans as part of your monthly cleaning routine. In hot, humid climates or during summer months, weekly cleaning may be needed to avoid odors.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Nylon-bristled scrub brush
- Long-handled scrub brush or mop
- Garden hose
- Spray bottle
- Plastic bins or tarp
- Microfiber cloths
- Baking soda
- Disinfecting spray
Start With an Empty Bin
The best time to clean the recycling bin is right after the waste material has been picked up or delivered to the recycling center. If that is not convenient, have some plastic bags, bins, or an old tarp available to hold the waste until the bin is clean and dry.
Wet and Sprinkle With Baking Soda
Begin by spraying the interior surfaces of the bin with a garden hose or spray bottle filled with water to dampen the plastic. Sprinkle the interior liberally with baking soda. The baking soda helps absorb odors and acts as a mild abrasive to remove stuck-on particles.
Scrub the Bin
Use a nylon-bristled scrub brush to clean all of the interior surfaces. If you have a large bin or recycling roll cart, it is easier to use a long-handled scrub brush or mop.
Once the interior surfaces are clean, repeat the baking soda scrub on the exterior of the bin or cart.
Use a garden hose to thoroughly rinse the interior and exterior of the bin. If you can't work outside, a deep utility sink or shower stall works well.
If you have time, allow the sun to do its work to completely dry the bin. Sunlight can also help disinfect the bin some. If not, use absorbent microfiber towels to dry the interior and exterior of the bin.
Disinfect, If Needed
If the bin still has a strong odor, spray the interior surfaces with a disinfecting spray to help kill the lingering bacteria that is causing the odor.
Recycling Tips to Keep Your Recycling Bin Clean Longer
A little extra effort before you place recyclables in the bin will keep the bin clean much longer. You should also check with your municipality to determine their regulations for recycling. Many places will not accept recyclables that are soiled with food.
- Rinse bottles, cans, and plastic containers before recycling. You don't need to scrub them to a pristine state but a quick scrape and rinse to remove food particles and sticky residue will keep your recycling bin clean and fresh much longer.
- Replace lids on plastic bottles to prevent leaking if your area doesn't require the separation of materials or if the lids are the same material as the bottles.
- Do not allow water or food liquids to accumulate in the bottom of the bin. If the bin is stored outside, be sure it has small drainage holes to allow moisture to escape. If the bin doesn't have holes, use a small drill or awl to create some.
- Place layers of newspaper in the bottom of the bin to absorb drips. This technique works best if the bin is stored indoors.
- Add a liner to the bin. A liner will keep the bin cleaner longer but be sure to check that it is made of a material that can be recycled along with the contents of the bin.
National Overview: Facts and Figures on Materials, Waste, and Recycling. United States Environmental Protection Agency.
Amichai B, Grunwald MH, Davidovici B, Shemer A. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants'*: the efficacy of sun exposure for reducing fungal contamination in used clothes. Isr Med Assoc J., vol. 16, no. 7, pp. 431-433, 2014.