Have you been ‘wishcycling?’ It’s likely doing more harm than good

On America Recycles Day, wishcycling is something the EPA wants more education on

Stock image. Magda Ehlers (Pexels)

Monday is America Recycles Day, and according to the most recent data released by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2018, the recycling rate in the U.S. was 32.1%, down from 34.5% in 2015.

One of the biggest issues in recycling is a concept known as “wishcycling,” an issue the EPA feels there needs to be more education on.

What exactly is wishcycling?

Wishcycling is when people’s best intentions to recycle often end up doing a lot of harm.

It’s a practice where people wish or hope items can be recycled -- and then throw them in a bin, but ultimately, those items can’t be recycled, and end up doing more damage than if they weren’t put in the bin at all.

What harm can wishcycling cause?

  • It can lead to contamination issues when unrecyclable material is mixed with recyclable material.
  • When there’s contamination in a recycle bin, it can lead processors to throw the entire bin in the landfill, meaning material that is recyclable ends up as garbage.
  • The ability of material to be recycled into new material is lessened if mixed with contaminated unrecyclable items.
  • Machines can be damaged.
  • This increases the time and demand for workers to handle the materials.

What materials are often wishcycled?

The following items are commonly wishcycled, but shouldn’t be in a recycle bin, according to recyclenation.com.

  • Plastic wrap
  • Plastic grocery bags
  • Plastic mailers
  • Bubble wrap
  • Pizza boxes
  • Wax-coated boxes from frozen foods
  • Pots and pans
  • Ink cartridges
  • Broken eyeglasses
  • Tupperware
  • Styrofoam
  • Small plastic lids

What items are commonly recycled, so wishcycling can be avoided?

  • Cardboard that is dry and free of grease stains.
  • Metal cans clean of any stuck-on food.
  • Clean foil pouches and aluminum foil.
  • Glass jars and bottles that are clean.
  • Plastic bottles and jars cleaned of stuck-on foods.
  • Paper products such as newspaper, white office paper, colored office paper, magazines, catalogs and phone books.

For further guidance on what items you should or shouldn’t recycle, get in touch with your local district’s rules.


About the Author:

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.