Q&A: The Perils of Peanut Butter

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Victoria Roberts

Q. In trying to recycle responsibly, is it worth the hot water needed to clean a jar of peanut butter, or should it not be recycled?

A. Especially for peanut butter jars, it may not be necessary to clean them to laboratory perfection before putting them out for collection, recycling experts say.

Depending on the material being recycled and the recycling methods used where you live, you may not need to do much before tossing the container into the recycling bin.

Including a jar that still has some oily material inside does not necessarily ruin an entire batch of recyclables. The dirty jar may be sorted by hand and removed from the recycling stream. Because plastic containers are particularly susceptible to contamination, even by their own labels, they are often set aside for a deep cleaning.

A recycling information site maintained by the Resource and Waste Recovery Division of Santa Barbara County, Calif., describes a way to clean a peanut butter jar that uses less energy and water than traditional dishwashing methods.

Scrape out as much peanut butter as you can, then fill the jar about one-fourth full with water. Add a drop of dish detergent, put on the top and shake vigorously. Dump out the contents and the jar should be clean enough to recycle.

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