By Grant Stokoe


Wish-cycling is best described as “the practice of tossing questionable items in the recycling bin, hoping they can be recycled” (“Wish-cycling”). There are set regulations in place that determine which materials can and cannot be recycled.

When we ‘guess’ on what materials go in the recycling bin, we are often incorrect. Further down the line, recycling collectors end up wasting time and money to sort the materials once more.

In Clanwilliam, we met with a local recycling collector, Jomon Viljoen. He explained to us how large amounts of material must be sorted through again due to consumers disposing of their waste improperly.

For example, items commonly wish-cycled are plastic wrap, plastic grocery bags, plastic bubble wrap mailers, pizza boxes, wax-coated boxes from frozen foods, pots and pans, ink cartridges, broken eyeglasses, tupperware, styrofoam, small plastic lids (“Recycle Nation”). These items are not supposed to be recycled the standard way in our recycling bins. A good rule of thumb is if you have to question if an item is recyclable, most likely the item is not.

Furthermore, when these items are present in recycling facilities, the machines and other equipment are not capable of breaking down the material as efficiently as actual recyclable items. As previously mentioned, the wish-cycled materials cost money to remove and can contaminate the batches of recyclable material.

According to the recycling company RoadRunner, one must recycle plastics with “chasing arrows”, clean cardboard and mixed paper products, rinsed and dried aluminum and glass containers (“What is wishcycling?”).

We must also compost our food waste, sort our recyclable materials to ensure they remain clean, uncontaminated and valuable (“What is wishcycling?”). With this, the recycling facilities can go through material faster and more efficiently.

The main solution to this problem is found at its source: consumers discarding waste. If people are actually aware of what can be recycled, the recycling facilities will save massive amounts of time and money in the long run. Education is paramount in changing mindsets, which must be done to counter the wish-cycling problem.



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