I Want You to Stop Wish-cycling

Posted by Debbie Hardy on

I wanted to take a moment to talk to you about wish-cycling. “What is wish-cycling Debs?” I hear you ask. Well, it’s a habit I’m sure we have all been guilty of at some point in our lives!

Wish-cycling is the well meaning act of putting items in the recycling bin, even if you’re not sure you should, in the hope that by being in the recycling stream these items won’t end up in landfill somewhere.

With rates of recycling increasing across the UK in recent years, contamination is becoming a growing issue. Contamination happens when different materials are mixed together in a way that a sorting facility cannot deal with; for example non-recyclables in with recyclable materials.

When contamination levels get too high, recycling waste is incinerated to produce energy (while there are benefits to this, it is also very polluting) or sent to landfill; the precise opposite of what you wanted when you wish-cycled!

What a bummer hey?

“So tell us Debs, what can we do to combat wish-cycling?”
Well, fortunately it’s quite straightforward.

First off, make sure you understand the rules about what your local authority can accept for recycling.

Second, carefully check packaging! You need to make sure that cardboard really is made of card, and not mixed materials (I’m looking at you, takeout coffee cup!)

Third, make sure you clean your recycling! That’s right, you need to thoroughly rinse out bottles, cans and tins; food is a contaminant too.

Lastly; if you can’t recycle it, leave it out of the recycling bin! It’s sad when we want to do more and are thwarted, but better not to contaminate the recycling stream, right?


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  • Yes, I’m ashamed to say I have done this for years! I always felt its better to get the message across to the council that they should be recycling other things, because their plastic recycling facility is so limited. So even though they say they only recycle plastic bottles I’d put in plastic trays from food etc. But I hadn’t hought about the contamination issue. Thank you for this post. I’m going to do more research into exactly what can be recycled and what can’t and stick to that.

    Catherine on

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