Wish-cycling Is Unintentionally Trashing The Recycling Industry

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Wish-cycling has done nothing but harmed the recycling industry. It is the habit of tossing the trash into the recycling bin, expecting that it will be recycled. You might think that perhaps it is okay to wish-cycle. But it could count as an awful habit born of ignorance that immensely harms the whole process.

We might dither for a moment if a particular item should go into the garbage or the recycling, be it a plastic bag, a pizza box, or a soft drink bottle. And we end up adding the wrong item to a precise waste category out of good intentions. But this little mistake contributes to contamination instead of cutting back on waste.

The waste recycling industry is reeling from the backlash from companies that buy these products for recycling. This could endanger the world’s recycling industry. They have refused to buy products if there remains even a small percentage of trash in the items.

The Complete Recycling Process

We, at the top of the process of trash and recycling material collection, can contribute immensely to the process. The whole process begins with the collection. Yes, everything else just follows this important process. And then comes sorting, processing, etc. So every time we correctly separate trash from recyclable materials, we contribute immensely to the whole process.

We are on the right track the moment we place every item rightly in their respective bins. But the whole process of recycling is only completed only when each consumer replaces the virgin material. It doesn’t end just at the collection stage.

Importance Of Recycling The Correct Items


If you think that you are helping the recycling process by adding garbage to it, you are mistaken. You wrongly conclude that the plant can sort and remove it if it is not recyclable. Wish-cycling, a term coined by the head of a Minnesota-based recycling company, Bill Keegan, is as common as it is dangerous. It is akin to friendly fire, as well-wishers unintentionally end up harming the very process they intend to protect.

What goes into the blue bin is never supposed to go there but it does. Just because we chose to be willfully ignorant. It leads to totally un-recyclable objects going wrongly through the recycling process. This garbage costs money and time to remove. And you end up harming the very process that you assume you are helping.

Wish-cycling Adds To The Processing Time

As the recycling process gets more automated, companies rely on large machines to sort our recyclables and process them. Such machines are highly automated. They are programmed to distinguish and properly redirect every item.

Every time we toss objects like bottle caps or shredded paper with the correct recycling objects, the machine can break down. And this happens often. It takes manual work to set things right and eats into the operational speed of the whole process. And every minute spent repairing machines that break down due to wish-cycling is a valuable minute taken away from the recycling process.

Wish-cycling Increases The Costs

Processing recyclables are a continuous process. And every time a machine breaks down because we wished to cycle an object, we have immensely added to the cost. This makes the whole process unprofitable.

We are unintentionally harming a vital industry that is contributing immensely to the environment. Contaminated recycled materials have no use in the market. We must contribute in our small way to maintain the quality of the material and sustainability of the whole process.

Wish-cycling costs an estimated 14% of London’s annual recycling program. That includes the extra cost of categorization materials to get rid of contamination. There is the additional cost of diverting the materials into the right stack. That is too high a price to pay for human ignorance.

Creating More Waste Than Getting Rid Of 

The complete recycling operations involve the collection, sorting, and finally selling these recycled materials separately. The process of recycling happens in batches. Every time a foreign object gets into this process by eluding both hand and machine sorting, the complete batch gets contaminated.

The rate of contamination that is collected from recycling programs is as high as 25%. The cost of removing such a high proportion of non-recyclable material is phenomenally high. This makes the whole process unprofitable for the processing industry. End market users have demanded that this is brought down to 0.5% of the total. As 2020 came to an end, China began a new limit on contamination. It requires processors such as Waste Management to decrease contamination of 500 pounds and more to 10 pounds.


Here is how wish-cycling harms the whole process. Water is added to paper to create a slurry. The presence of food grease inside boxes is contamination that is difficult to remove during every pulping process.

This ruins entire batches at times. This is one reason that most food-related waste is not recyclable, including napkins, paper plates, and paper towels.

So you remain smug in the belief that you have helped the environment by wish-cycling. But your act of ignorance might end up contaminating and trashing tons of perfectly recyclable material.

How Do We Change From The Wish-Cycling Process?

If you happen to be wish-cycling up the objects you dispose of, here is how you can make things better.

The first step is to get familiar with at least the bare rules about the whole process of recycling and trash disposal. Each city has its process. The waste disposal department at your local municipality could help you out with the guidelines.

Make a list of the guidelines and keep it displayed prominently for reference. The recycling process does not accept all plastics. Recycling involves as many as 7 different grades with different capacities. A glass bottle does not normally mix with its cap as they are two different materials, though they may all be called plastic.

We should also be aware that stopping wish-cycling is only the first step in the whole process of recycling. Collecting materials the correct way and then processing them into new material is the only way to realize the enormous environmental and economic yield. And by wish-cycling away our responsibility, we only add to the problem that we hope to solve and create a negative impact on the environment.

Just pick up these simple pieces of information that finally add to your knowledge of recycling. You end up contributing much to the whole salvaging process.

The whole focus of waste management should be on reducing the environmental and economic impact of wish-cycling. This focus on quality will in the long run lead to an increase in demand. It is all about recycling the right materials in the right way. 

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