Are you recycling or wish-cycling? Think before you toss it

By Ananya Chaturvedi

8th August 2021

Have you ever tossed soiled pizza boxes, beverage cups, or tiny plastic wrappers in the recycle bin, thinking that they will be recycled in some way or the other, but are not entirely sure if the products you just tossed are recyclable? Well, you probably have and this form of well-intentioned but ultimately damaging conduct is referred to as "wish-cycling” and you've most likely wish-cycled a few times.

Despite the fact that it seems to be the best thing to do, wish-cycling is one of the most common and important problems confronting the recycling industry. It causes a slew of issues in the recycling process. Things that seem recyclable, such as greasy takeout containers and soda cups, can contaminate whole loads of valuable products, rendering them difficult to handle and sell. One non-recyclable object in the stack is all that takes to contaminate an entire shipment of recyclables, requiring recyclers to send the whole stack to the landfill, as a consequence, pollution in different forms develops over time.

The "wish-cycling” can be completely avoided; all it takes is a little knowledge and awareness. The basic act of preventing contamination of materials will go a long way! When you're about to toss something in the recycling bin that you're not sure, do a quick re-search (few types and clicks on the internet) or read the labels behind the product.

Here are 10 tips to help you avoid adding to the landfill pile by avoiding wish-cycling.
1. Prior to recycling, aim to reuse; If something can be repurposed or reused in its current state, choose to do so. Recycling necessitates the use of electricity, while reusing does not.
2. Make sure the garbage you're discarding in the recycle bin doesn't have any food residue(rinse out containers before).
3. Small products, such as candy wrappers, are not recyclable. Remember the Credit Card Rule (items smaller than the credit cardcan’t be recycled).
4. Glass bottles can be recycled almost entirely. Before throwing away the ketchup/wine bottle, make sure the lid is removed.
5. Look up the recycling laws in your area and municipality see what they accept.
6. Instead of buying, repair. Check to see if an object can be fixed before discarding it. If you do decide to buy something new, make sure it is of the highest possible quality and durability.
7. Select reusables. Use reusable shopping bags and totes, bring your travel mug to the coffee shop, and keep a reusable water bottle on you at all times!
8. Thrifting is the way to go. Use what you already have or go to a resale/thrift shop or a yard sale to find a “gently used” piece. Look for products on resale websites or share/trade with friends and neighbors.
9. Buy goods with little or no packaging. Choose products that are packaged in a way that is sustainable, reusable, and recyclable.
10. Last but not least, keep it loose. Your recyclables should not be bagged or tied. Simply retain a loose hold on them. Place a brick or other heavy object on top of the flattened stack if you're worried about paper flying away.

The best way to stop wish-cycling, however, is to reduce waste production in the first place. Consider rethinking your shopping habits and, in particular, reducing your reliance on single-use convenience products, as source growth is the leading cause of our waste issue. There’s a tragic irony to wish-cycling. People occasionally do so in the mistaken belief that they are reducing waste. It's past time to put an end to this.

Do your best to integrate the suggestions into your everyday routine. Happy recycling!