Can you leave your recyclables dirty? A little, yes. But don't leave them filthy, a recycling professional tells MEL Magazine. While recycling plants eventually wash all the materials they recycle, a lot of it sits around first. Excess food waste can attract pests and make it more expensive to recycle things. So if you're throwing filthy containers into the recycling bin, you might do more harm than if you just threw them in the trash.
That means you can recycle slightly greasy pizza boxes, but not ones covered in cheese and sauce. You can recycle an unrinsed beer bottle or can, but it's better to rinse it. And if you throw out a glass container with a lot of food waste, the recycling center is likely to just throw it out.
In their piece, MEL gets into the economics of recycling plants and what gets cleaned vs. what gets tossed. And check out our more extensive guide to which household items you should and shouldn't recycle.
Yes, You're Supposed to Wash Your Recyclables [MEL Magazine]