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Tuesday 22nd September 2020

Wish-cycling is what we do when we put materials in the recycling bin with a wink and a prayer, hoping they will get recycled but not knowing for sure. Most of us have found ourselves hovering at the recycling bin for a moment. Can I recycle a crisp packet? What about a food-splattered napkin? How about a half full pot of hummus? 

Wish-cyclers believe that they’re better off popping the material in, because it’s all headed to a recycling facility further down the line. Unfortunately, misplaced optimism when it comes to waste can have bad consequences. 

That’s why, this Recycle Week as part of our campaign #Recycling- we separate, we’re calling for an end to wish-cycling.

What harm does wish-cycling do? 

Wish-cycling causes contamination, which can mean good quality recyclables won’t get recycled at all 

Hand sorting is the first element of the recycling process at most facilities in the UK. The contents of your recycling sack will go over a line and real people will work hard to filter out the good quality recyclables so they can be sent on to make wonderful new things. This job can get quite tough if the sorting line is full of half-full soup pots, dregs of lattes in coffee cups or even broken glass bottles. 

Essentially wish-cycling doesn’t do anyone any favours. Simply by putting the wrong things into your recycling it can be much harder to get the best out of the good materials, the stuff that need to be protected and handled with care, so it can go on to have a good second life. 

Years of wish-cycling (amongst other issues) have led to countries such as China closing the doors on poor-quality UK materials. And rightly so.

How can you avoid wish-cycling? 

1. Find out what can or cannot go into your recycling bin

Watch our latest animation for some top tips on what can and cannot go into your mixed recycling or what we now call Paper, Cans and Plastic Containers. 

2. Keep items Clean and Dry 

Please supply clean and dry is our new motto. You’ll start to see our new logo on our recycling posters, sacks and on our website – pretty much everywhere! Keeping items in your recycling clean and dry is one of the most important things to remember when recycling, to ensure materials can continue their journey to become new products.  

Next time you’re hovering over the bin wondering where to place your dirty yogurt pot – STOP. Unless you can rinse and dry it off it should go into your general waste, otherwise it risks contaminating other materials in the bin.

3. When in doubt, throw it out!  

As much as we like to believe that everything is recyclable, the reality is that some things aren’t, or at least not in a bin containing a mixture of materials. Items like black plastics or crisp packets are ‘technically’ recyclable. But if there isn’t an end market or a facility within a reasonable distance to recycle it – then it may not be the best environmental outcome. 

So, help us to banish wish-cycling – and think before you throw!

Jessica Parrilla

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