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Because You Asked

Do I Have to Remove Labels Before Recycling?

By Recyclebank |

Technology continues to make recycling easier and more convenient.

Dear Recyclebank,

Do I need to remove the labels from containers before I recycle them? I try to scrape off as much as I can before I put them in my recycling bin, but my son says not to bother.

Violet F.


Dear Violet,

Unless your waste hauler specifically directs you to do so, save yourself a bit of time and effort and skip the label scraping! Practically all of today’s recycling technology will make quick work of the labels. Applying high heat is an integral part of the recycling process for glass, plastic, and metal, and impurities — such as labels and glue — get burned away.

One reason to remove labels from recyclables is to recycle the label itself. Paper labels, such as those on soup cans, can go in the bin with your other paper recycling. Another reason to remove labels is if you’re reusing the container. After all, reusing a container is an even better option than recycling it because recycling requires resources to process materials.

Keep America Beautiful

Do you reuse containers or do you prefer to recycle them? Tell us in the comments below.

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  • Angela M. 1 year ago
    Some glass containers are pretty to use as vases or to use as presents (dead sea salt/Epsom salt & organic rose petals for the bath).
  • Lynn M. 1 year ago
    I keep an empty can in the pet food bags to scoop out the amount needed. I'm looking for a large coffee can that I can decorate then put kitchen utensils in and leave it on the counter within easy reach of the stove. It frees up a drawer too.
  • g c. 2 years ago
    MIL uses cans to water plants on a hillside.
    Poke holes low on the sides, as close to the bottom as possible.
    I used an old screwdriver.
    Bury it behind a plant so the water from rain or sprinkler is caught and will feed the roots instead of running downhill.
    Helped me keep some young plants from dying, but not a good idea if you have the patter of tiny feet on your hillside. Maybe put some rocks around the lip of the can.
  • June S. 2 years ago
    I only reuse GLASS containers. So anything that comes in plastic gets recycled. I don't use plastic containers such as tupperware or gladware or any type of plastic container, so why would I reuse a plastic container that came with food in it? The only plastic I reuse is Chinese take out containers. I wash those and save them for Christmas and use them to give homemade cookies and candy to friends and family. Lots of plastic containers stain or you can't get the smell out of them, rendering them useless. Glass never stains and never holds an odor, so I much prefer glass containers. Sadly, more and more companies are switching to plastic because they say it's cheaper for them. So when a product I was accustomed to buying in glass is no longer available in glass, I have to try and find a comparable product that is still packaged in glass. Marie's salad dressings USED to be packaged in glass, and the lids were the same size as Mason jar lids. I recycled the plastic lids and reused the jars with a new lid. Now they have defected to plastic, so I had to find another dressing packaged in glass. They lost me as a customer.
    • g c. 2 years ago
      salsa jars have a nice wide opening so I've been saving mostly those & weeding out other jars. The lid gets rusty or icky so I line it with waxed paper (from cereal box liners) or the thick plastic that my frozen pizza is in.
      Also keeps leaks at bay and adds extra protection from freezer burn. If I'm concerned about contents expanding when frozen & breaking the jar, I'll use mason jar and instead of a lid, just waxed paper held in place by the ring.
      Most of the time the lid doesn't need washing, which also keeps it from deteriorating. Water in the rim is hard to get out.
      Also works on glass bottles - I wish Snapple still came in glass. I make iced tea or fresh squeezed OJ (have a tree) . The OJ acid used to quickly destroy lids.
    • June S. 2 years ago
      How do you get the smell out of the salsa jars lids? I've found things like that, pickle jars, etc. tend to hold the smell of what was in the jar. I don't have a dishwasher and have to wash stuff by hand and I can't seem to get the smells out of the lids.
  • Lynda S. 2 years ago
    I rather reuse them but we don’t have the room to keep them and it gets frustrating
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