What is wish cycling? And why is it a problem ...

Abi Reid baking away,  reducing food waste across South Yorkshire
Abi Reid
1 Jan 2022

Have you ever put something in your recycling bin with the hopes that it will be recycled?

That is what we call ‘Wish-cycling’

Even though you might have good intentions when doing this, it can cause problems and impact the recycling processes of other materials.

Different types of recycling including plastic bottles, plastic bags and egg boxes

Why is it a problem?

When the wrong items go in your recycling bin it is called contamination and this can cost the local authority (and therefore tax payers ) a lot of money.  This can be between tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of pounds a year and have an impact on our planet.

It can cause issues at recycling facilities and it can lead to whole lorry loads of waste being rejected for recycling.

This also means a loss of valuable resources as materials cannot be recycled into something new. This impacts climate change as recycling materials requires a lot less energy and creates less carbon dioxide (CO2) compared with extracting raw materials.



How to avoid wish-cycling

Check before you chuck

What you can put in your recycling bins depends on where you live and what the local Council will accept. Check their website for details on what you can recycle, which bin it needs to go in and stick to their list.

It is important to make sure your recycling is the best quality it can be.  Make sure all containers are empty of food debris and rinsed where necessary to keep food out of the recycling. Cardboard and paper are often accepted in the recycling, however, your Council may not accept them if they are contaminated with food and grease (e.g. pizza and takeaway boxes).



Check what types of plastic are accepted

Although many items are called plastics, there are many different types of plastics with different properties that are used for different things.  Therefore, they are recycled in different processes.

Your Council will clearly state what type of plastics they will accept in their recycling. E.g. if it states plastic bottles only, do not add any other plastic items such as pots, tubs and trays.


Other ways you can recycle

Terracycle also recycles some more unusual items, find out more on their website. 

Supermarkets are also beginning to offer more recycling options such as printer cartridges, soft plastics (such as bread bags and carrier bags) and batteries.




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