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Recycling Q & A: Cleaning Products

By Annie Bell Muzaurieta |
Water bottles are a no brainer, but can you recycle those jugs of household cleaners?
Originally Published: 02/24/10



You might not think of extra strength drain de-clogger or heavy-duty stain remover as eco-friendly, but you can green the end life of said cleaning product. How? Many cleaning and personal care product bottles are made of plastic #1 or #2, which means many municipalities will accept them for recycling.

According to Keith Christman, Managing Director of Plastics Markets at the American Chemistry Council, you should treat them like any other recyclable bottle or jug-rinse and re-cap or toss the cap depending on what your local government suggests. He said they are not more difficult to recycle than other plastic bottles.

A reader recently asked us: What should we do with the cleaning product residue that's left in the bottle?

Brian Sansoni of the Soap and Detergent Association says that cleaning products such as laundry and dishwashing detergents; multi-surface cleaners; bleaches; disinfectant cleaners; and liquid metal polishes; drain openers and toilet bowl cleaners, can be flushed down the drain with running water, and typically don't contain ingredients that would harm the environment in the quantities that are disposed of by households.

He explained, "The vast majority of cleaning products are water soluble and are formulated for safe disposal in either municipal or home wastewater treatment systems." Christman said that cleaning product residue does not pose a problem for recycling systems.

According to a report from the American Chemistry Council, 99% of plastic bottles recycled in 2008 were plastic #1 or #2. Christman said the majority of recycled PET (plastic #1) goes into fiber, like carpet or polyester and fleece jackets and also back into bottles. In the case of HDPE (#2), recycled material goes back into items such as cleaning and personal care product bottles, runoff pipes, automotives, and composite decking.

So the next time you empty a bottle of window cleaner, remember it's probably recyclable. "I think it's more from a habit perspective. People are used to recycling the things in their kitchen," said Christman, "but sometimes they forget that cleaning and personal care products are fully recyclable too."

What else have you been surprised to find is recyclable? Share below!


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  • Penny H. 9 months ago
    Laundry detergent bottles need to be rinsed several times to get the bottle clean. I have saved the sudsy residue by pouring it into an clean and empty dish detergent bottle and I then use it to rinse off my hands instead of using hand soap. I have also saved clean and empty bottles of spray cleaners to re-use the bottle as a spray bottle for gardening or laundry. Old socks with holes that can't be darned make good dust rags as well.
  • Elaine F. 4 years ago
    pizza boxes as long as they are clean.
  • William O. 4 years ago
    So what about the non #1 or 2 items. Are you suggesting people throw dangerous #* plastics into the trash system? How about turning it in to a collection resource?

    And now lets here it for P&G and Pantene Plus LOL. Sad website we have here.
  • 5 years ago
    I, too, have been a loooong time recycler (kinda like a packrat?). Since I am a once a month check recipient, I sell my aluminum, copper, etc. All hazmat goes to the City, every several months. Everything else I recycle from my curb. I separat e my plastic in a large plastic bag and the caps also go in a separate plastic bag. I have been into gardening for over 35 years and have also been composting-you get the best soil! I even purchased some earthworms. Wish I had a real composter. I collect rain water for my plants. Have a barrel under my drainspout. I also collect the water from myu air conditioner for my plants. And last, but not least the water I wash my dishes in goes out the door where my grass is nice and green. There are more, but for now, ta ta
  • 5 years ago
    I am a classroom teacher and work hard to recycle cans, plastic, and especially paper in my classroom. I make it a point to collect recyclables in the lunchroom and take them with my items. I started a recycling bin in the copy room so that all paper, including paper ream packaging, could be recycled. This has led to a newspaper recycling collection too, as we receive newspapers that are used in the classrooms. Any extra copies are recycled too. Since one set of the recycling bins is so close to school (less than 1/4 mile) it's super convenient!
    PS I recycle at home too.
    PSS I have also become addicted to blogs that give me great ideas about recycling tons of things that turn trash into treasures!
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