If you are thinking “this is probably recyclable”, it’s called wishcycling, and it does more harm than good. But what does wishcycling mean?
What is wishcycling?
It’s actually pretty simple: wishcycling is putting something in a recycling bin in the hope that it will be recycled.
Why is it problematic?
Wishcycling is a serious problem and it is something we all need to address.
Workers in recycling facilities try to remove incorrect items by hand (wish-cycled items, which get sent to landfill anyway), but sometimes they miss them.
For example, plastic bags get wrapped around the cogs and clog up the machines, damaging equipment and endangering workers.
Wishcycling diminishes the quality of the recycled end-product. Even small amounts of contaminants can ruin an entire batch. Once this happens, manufacturers don’t want to buy it, and recyclers are forced to send valuable material to landfills.
Economically, sorting rubbish slows down recycling operations, which costs more, as does the disposal of that rubbish.
Environmentally, non-recyclable waste can spoil otherwise recyclable items, and including waste in recycling results in additional trips to landfill, which is costly for the environment.
What you probably don’t know…
Mixing paper with drink cans results in wet paper, which is not recyclable. Unwashed plastic food containers, such as mayonnaise and peanut butter jars, can’t be recycled either. And many of the items we buy every day were never designed to be recycled. Such as plastic grocery bags, toothpaste tubes, hard-molded plastic packaging, plastic wrap, compostable or biodegradable plastic containers and construction paper.
The irony is that, to recycle more, we need to recycle less. Which means we need to stop clogging up the recycling stream with non-recyclable items. No matter how happy we feel about sending them to a ‘good’ place.
Waste that is thought to be recyclable but is not:
- Yoghurt pots
- Paper towels and kitchen towels
- Paper towels
- Pizza boxes with grease
- Plastic bags and film
- Plastic screw caps
- Juice cartons and other coated cardboard beverage containers
- Plastic coated boxes, plastic food packaging boxes, or any plastic without a recycling logo
- Shredded paper
- Takeaway packaging
- Metal hangers
We all try to recycle as much as we can. Wishcycling is well intentioned, but it does more harm than good. We know, recycling is very confusing. So, you might be tempted to put something in the recycling bin “just in case”.
So what can we do?
- Find out what waste is accepted by your local authority.
- Double check before you throw it away.
- Don’t assume that all plastics are accepted at the rubbish collection.
If you have a doubt, put it in the regular bin, don’t take the risk to contaminate the recycling!
If you want to know more about recycling and what happens to our waste, please see our article “Recyclable” does not mean it will be “recycled”.