Mr. Green is busy on his world-wide publicity tour for his new book. In the meantime, here's a Mr. Green classic column from June 2007.
Hey Mr. Green,
Our 800-person office doesn't have a recycling program for beverage containers. We've been told that the empty containers would lure rats and other pests into the building. Do you know how other large companies have solved this problem? —Adam in Indianapolis
The recycling authorities I've contacted have a nice straightforward answer for you: Rinse out your darn bottles, cans, and jars. But even rinsing is not technically necessary. Since the recycling process burns off organic material, dirty containers are mainly a problem when they sit around in hot, humid areas. (If your colleagues are competent enough to keep a tight-fitting lid on the recycling bin, you can get by even in those places without rinsing.)
At the Sierra Club headquarters in cool, foggy San Francisco, that's not an issue, and despite imperfect rinsing habits, we haven't had any pest problems. Not, that is, unless you count the occasional crank caller who informs us we're a bunch of tree-hugging ninnies he'd like to squish under the treads of his ten-ton Hummer.
Of course, pests are not the only issue to consider. Food and beverage remnants can contaminate paper being sorted for recycling in the same facility. (Food waste should be composted anyway.) And think of the hard-working recyclers, sorting your castoffs by hand. As one recycler explains, "We will do our best to recycle a broken glass jar half full of mayonnaise on a hot day, but the spoiled food adds to the challenge."