Clean recyclables or water conservation? You don’t have to pick one over the other!
Bottles containing liquids can be emptied and air-dried before being tossed in the bin, without needing an ounce of water. Wide-mouth containers with stickier foodstuff should be scraped or wiped out by hand using a fork, spatula, or dirty napkin, again avoiding the sink altogether.
If “dry cleaning” doesn’t get the job done and you need to use water, we recommend using graywater (lightly used water). Washing fruits/vegetables or dishes in a large bowl or tub will leave you with graywater perfectly suited for cleaning recyclables before going down the drain. Water can also be collected using a drain plug. Moisten a sponge with graywater for wiping out the muck; bottles with smaller openings that are tougher to wipe out can be filled with graywater, closed, and shaken until clean.
Don’t feel like you need to rinse right away. I tend to leave containers open and in the kitchen sink so that when we wash our hands, etc., they collect the water that was used.