What is Wish-Cycling? - The Sustainable Watch Company

What is Wish-Cycling?

Whilst wish-cycling might be a well-intentioned habit in an increasingly confusing world of recycling, it often does more harm than good and has consequences that impact global recycling as a whole.

Recycling image on a tree set against a country background

Wish-cycling is the practice of recycling items that cannot be recycled, despite the best intentions. You wish or hope that something you’ve bought or used can be recycled, maybe it’s a greasy pizza box or a plastic bag from your local supermarket? So you hedge your bets and put it in the recycling, hoping for the best. 

Instead, your good intentions end up costing recycling companies more time, money and ultimately diminishes the quality of the recycled end-product, potentially ruining an entire batch. In this case it is unable to be processed, manufacturers don’t want to buy it, and it ends up in landfill at a much greater cost of time, money and energy.

So, what to takeaway from this? As a rule of thumb, plastic bottles, tubs, metal cans, foils and jars are often recyclable, but these have to be cleaned. Cardboard can also be recycled, but this needs to be dry and free of grease stains. Pizza boxes are often not recycled. Wax coated boxes you get in frozen foods are often not recyclable. If items aren't recyclable at the curb, most grocery stores have bins in the front entrance or bottle redemption area where you can drop these.

First and foremost, check the packaging before you throw anything away, clean your items and avoid throwing dirty or uncertain items in the recycling. It takes a matter of seconds to do this, eliminates all the guessing and could save a whole batch of recycling from landfill!


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