Approx 600 words.
Are you a wish-cycler? In this helpful guide, packaging technologist Robert Thompson introduces the concept of wish-cycling – how to avoid it as well as useful tips on how to recycle properly, whether at the workplace or at home
We’re all guilty of not washing out that ready-meal container or choosing not to remove the plastic film on a fruit punnet. But these actions have a name: wish-cycling. The act of attempting to recycle items that we hope can be recycled – but can’t.
It may sound harmless, but trying to recycle items that we shouldn’t can lead to multiple problems within the recycling process. Whether it’s a dirty food container or something made from mixed materials, one non-recyclable item has the power to contaminate a whole load of recyclable waste, causing it all to end up in landfill. Yes – the whole lot!
Wish-cycling can also slow down the recycling process. When items aren’t sorted correctly, recycling centres can end up facing increased sorting costs and delayed timelines. If recycling centres are sent too many materials that can’t be recycled, they may reject the load altogether (including items that can be recycled). It’s a huge waste – and something needs to be done about it. Luckily, there are some really easy things you can do at home to help.
How to avoid wish-cycling
It may sound obvious, but learning how to recycle properly will prevent a lot of the damage caused by wish-cycling. Just a few simple changes can make a huge difference. I’ve rounded up a few of the most common recycling blunders below, including tips on how to avoid them.
1. Wash out food containers
Dirty food containers can’t be recycled, so make sure you rinse them thoroughly before recycling. Peanut butter jars, pizza boxes and ready-meal trays are all common culprits.
2. Recycle soft plastics at your local Co-op store
Soft plastics, like crisp packets, bread bags or the film on fruit punnets, can’t be recycled in normal recycling bins. But, they can be recycled in our new soft plastic recycling bins in store! Simply take your soft plastic waste (it doesn’t matter where you bought the item) with you next time you shop at Co-op. Easy.
3. Check your local council’s rules
Make sure you understand your local authority’s recycling system and what they will and won’t recycle. If you have separate recycling streams, make sure you clean items, then place each material in the correct bin.
4. Separate products made from mixed materials
A lot of food is packaged using a combination of different materials, like cardboard and plastic. I often have to remind myself to remove the tape from cardboard boxes before I recycle them! Make sure you read the recycling instructions on packaging thoroughly, to understand what can and cannot be recycled.
5. Look out for tricky items
You know those items you’ve always recycled, but were never actually sure about? Things like toothpaste tubes, drinking glasses and polystyrene. None of these can actually be recycled through the majority of household waste collections. Next time you’re not sure whether an item can be recycled in your area, look it up! It could make the world of difference.
6. Double check labels
Not all materials are created equally. Some plastics can be recycled at kerbside, while others can’t, so look out for the recycling symbol on products before you put them in the recycling bin.