What Is Wishcycling?

Hand holding a glass earth globe surrounded in greenery

Ditch Wishcycling to Improve Recycling Efforts

Recycling is a great way to streamline the waste stream and make the most of the existing materials while conserving resources. However, the process of recycling is only effective when materials that can, in fact, be recycled are tossed into the proper bin. When items that cannot be recycled are placed into a recycling bin it can be a hassle and have significant impacts. People often have the best of intentions when they attempt to recycle non-recyclable items, but this practice, known as wishcycling can have some pretty serious consequences.

We’ve All Been There

You have likely stood in front of a recycling bin with an item in your hand and wondered if that item can be recycled. Maybe that item was the lid from a disposable coffee cup, an empty tube of lip balm, a single-use plastic bag or any number of things. You want to do right by the planet and recycle everything you possibly can, so you decide to toss the item in the recycling bin.

You may think that if that item cannot be recycled then someone involved in the actual recycling process can simply remove that item. This is known as wishcycling because you are essentially wishing it can be recycled. If you guess right then the item will be recycled. But what happens if you guess wrong? It turns out, a lot of bad things can happen from a bad guess.

Sorting Materials

Items tossed into a recycling bin are brought to a facility for sorting. Some facilities use machinery for sorting while others rely on employees to manually sort items. Most recycling facilities use a combination of machinery and people to handle the sorting. Items are sorted by the material type, like glass, metal, paper, and plastic.

After the initial sort, some items are further categorized. For example, glass may be sorted by color and cardboard may be separated from paper. When materials that cannot be recycled find their way into a recycling bin, it falls to the recycling company to remove these items during the sorting process. Removing items that cannot be recycled ends up costing the business time and money and can even end up creating more trash.

Time and Money

In many instances, materials are not accepted for recycling due to the difficulty around the processing. For example, single-use plastic bags are recyclable, however, most recycling facilities do not accept them because they can very easily become tangled in the equipment. Removing this type of blockage may require shutting down equipment and it can take hours to locate and remove the blockage in order to get the equipment back up and running. Shutting down equipment prevents work from happening and causes delays.

More Trash

Failure to remove non-recyclable items via wishcycling can contaminate sorted bundles. A rogue item working its way into a bundle of recyclable materials ruins the entire bundle. When this happens, the entire bundle may be scrapped and end up in a landfill.

Easy Solution to End Wishcycling

The way to end wishcycling is to clearly communicate what can be recycled. When people know and understand the rules, they can follow those rules. A great way to put an end to wish cycling is for municipalities to offer bags for recycling that can be reused with printed information listing what can be recycled. It can also be helpful to include answers to common recycling questions and a phone number or web address people can use to ask their recycling questions. This way people will understand what they can recycle and they will have a resource to consult if they need more information.

Make Recycling Simple

Wishcycling happens when people are unsure about which materials they can recycle. People have the best of intentions, but these well-intended mistakes can end up costing recyclers time and money and may ultimately create more trash. The way to prevent wishcycling from happening is to inform people about what they can recycle and reusable recycling bags are an effective tool to communicate this information. Contact Factory Direct Promos today and ask for help creating your custom reusable recycling bags!


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