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Think Before You Throw: Help Put a Stop to Wishcycling


Are you guilty of wishcycling? Also known as aspirational recycling, wishcycling happens when you put something into the recycling bin without checking whether it’s actually recyclable.

We get it! You don’t want to add more waste to the planet, so you toss your item in the recycling bin, hoping it’ll get recycled. Worst-case scenario: If you made a mistake, the recycling facility will be able to fix it. Right?

The answer is no. Although people have the best of intentions, wishcycling is one of the biggest issues waste management faces today. This video from the American Forest and Paper Association explains wishcycling.

Here are two reasons wishcycling is bad for the planet:

1. Wishcycling Creates More Waste

When you throw something in the recycling bin without checking whether it is recyclable, it could actually contaminate items that can be recycled. When a batch of recyclables is contaminated, there is a good chance that the whole lot will be rejected and end up in the landfill. Wishcycling causes literally tons of items that are actually recyclable to be sent to the landfill.

2. Wishcycling Hurts the Recycling Industry

All recyclables are processed at local material recovery facilities (MRFs), each outfitted with their own unique capabilities. That’s why communities have such varied waste management programs. When you recycle an item that can’t be processed at your local MRF, the item could damage their equipment or require extra staff to presort items in an effort to avoid such damage. When recycling is no longer economically feasible, some local governments may choose to end their recycling programs.

How to Avoid Wishcycling

Take time to learn what can and can’t be recycled at your local MRF. Visit your city or municipality website, where you should find an entire section dedicated to waste management.

Meanwhile, here are a few general rules, regardless of where you reside:

Do recycle:

  • Cardboard
  • Paper
  • Mail
  • Food boxes (without liners)
  • Aluminum cans
  • Plastic jars and jugs
  • Plastic bottles and caps

Don’t recycle:

  • Anything with food residue
  • Garden hoses
  • Propane tanks
  • Aerosol cans
  • Diapers
  • Used napkins, tissues or paper towels

Check before recycling:

  • Glass
  • Plastic bags
  • Wax-coated juice boxes

Learn more about our dedication to reducing, reusing and recycling: