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Wishcycling Explained: How To Avoid Being A Bad Recycler

Wishcycling is a term that's become much more popular in American culture. Putting something in the recycling bin and hoping it will be recycled is the definition of wishcycling -- even if there is little evidence to confirm that the item could be recycled. Wishcycling has caused many of us to get caught up in feeling like we’re ending plastic waste. 

Hope is the basis for this practice because despite not being sure about an item’s recyclability or the system behind recycling, wishcycling is the belief that dumping anything in a blue bin is a good plan. We hope the people sorting our trash will just throw the items in the right places and our good deed of recycling would be a huge success, right?  

The truth of it all, is that rather than the waste becoming something new like we would’ve hoped, it’s generally lost in a deep abyss costing more for labor and equipment when it comes to sorting. Wishcycling is therefore more harmful than we imagine because hopeful dumping can contaminate the recyclable items that are with it. Meaning that the “good” recyclable materials end up alongside the nonrecyclable materials in a landfill. In this case, when we aren’t sure if an item is recyclable, it’s better to just throw waste away than to wishcycle. 

Despite our good intentions we worsen the issues with waste and slow the progress toward a circular economy – a system of processes that aim to eliminate waste by ensuring that resources maintain their highest value for as long as possible.  So instead of saying, “I’ll just throw this out with the other recyclable waste and hope someone else figures it out,” throw your plastic out with the trash or even better… increase your knowledge about what is recyclable and what is not.  

For starters, some of those plastic items that you should keep out of your recycling bins to prevent further wishcycling are:  

  • Plastic bubble wrap  
  • Plastic bags 
  • Plastic wraps 
  • Food storage containers 
  • Plastic lids 

The most helpful thing any of us can do is to learn what plastics can be recycled and to continue this journey of being a pro at recycling plastic, check out our handy guide to plastics which will take us from wishing to doing!





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