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Eco-explainer: What is Wishcycling?
Recycle

Eco-explainer: What is Wishcycling?

Throwing more into the recycling bin can actually be worse. Here’s why.

Regardless of the question if recycling is as efficient as it could be, many Americans are convinced that recycling is an important part of sustainability.

However, residents often place materials into their recycling bins that they think could be recycled, but are not able to be.

Enter: Wishcycling.

What is Wishcycling?

Wishcycling is putting objects into a recycling bin and hoping that it will be recycled, even if the recycling guidelines contradict this assumption. It’s also known as “aspirational recycling,” which is where people make decisions about what can and cannot be recycled, or accidentally put non-recyclable items in the recycling bin.

However, consumers aren’t to blame. Companies constantly create new packaging and do not define if the objects can or cannot be recycling. The recycling symbol (those recycling symbols with numbers) listed on materials does NOT mean that it’s necessarily recyclable. Local recycling guidelines vary from municipality to municipality, so what’s recyclable in one town may not be recyclable in the next. And, waste management companies and governments have to communicate the very complicated rules to residents in a simplified manner.

Why is wishcycling bad?

Wishycycling is challenging for the recycling industry. Waste that isn’t separated properly can be more costly with extra labor. Materials like plastic bags and plastic film can also damage sorting systems and equipment, according to the Washington Post.

Some of the wishcycled items can also contaminate the rest of the recycling stream, which ends up creating more waste. For example, greasy pizza boxes mixed with water and paper products can cause oil to form and not be separated, contaminating the whole batch.

What items are subject to wishcycling?

Improper items that are often “wishcycled” and end up in the recycling bin include greasy pizza boxes, broken glass (like eyeglasses), ink cartridges, and plastic bags.

These items have better places to go, but may be difficult to find.

Photo by Julio Lopez on Unsplash


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Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake. View all posts by Julie Hancher

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