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Wish-Cycling: Explained

For over two decades now, recycling has been integrated into our lifestyles and our homes; we separate our waste, doing the best we can. But when were we taught how to actually recycle? As access, resources and awareness have continued to grow, the concept of wish cycling has arisen, which has brought into light our not so sustainable recycling habits.

Wish cycling, also known as aspirational recycling, occurs when we are uncertain about the recyclability of an item, but put it in the blue bin regardless, as recycling does better the planet. This moment of consideration has happened to the best of us: an empty greasy pizza box, an old container with a little residue on it, the list goes on. While it may seem harmless to throw that pizza box into the recycling bin, these items have the potential to derail the entire recycling process and negatively impact recycling plants, doing more harm than good. Wish cycled items contaminate recyclable batches, and as a result, many items must be sent to landfills. Time, money, and resources are wasted in dealing with wish-cycled items, and these habits pose a serious threat to the recycling industry as a whole. So, how can we avoid this? What is the guide to being the best recycler possible? We’ve composed it here for you.

It’s essential we begin to break the habit of wish cycling as we continue to adopt more sustainable, environmentally friendly ways to live. In addition to understanding what we can and cannot recycle to avoid wish cycling, we should educate ourselves and begin adhering to these common recycling practices below.

  1. Know your local recycling rules

  2. Keep items CLD: clean, loose, and dry

  3. COMPOSTABLE does not mean recyclable (although, composting is another great sustainable practice!)

  4. A rule of thumb about plastics - 1,2,5 recycling code numbers can be recycled

  5. Mixed Material and Packaging and Products - safest bet with mixed material is to throw it in the trash

  6. When in doubt throw it out

  7. Best way to avoid Wish Cycling: reduce the amount of waste you generate

Through all of these rules and practices, it’s important to remember to be kind to yourself in learning how to be as sustainable as you can. Sustainability is no easy feat, and you’re doing great just by starting here, with us at ImagineWeCould.


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Can you bring plastic bags to recycle at grocery stores? I have brought some to Fresh Thyme before.

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