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QEEP Recycling: What's Wish-Cycling & Why's It So Bad?

QEEP Recycling: What's Wish-Cycling & Why's It So Bad?

What Is Wish-Cycling?

Wish-cycling is tossing an item into a bin and hoping it will get recycled. It’s one of the most common recycling mistakes—made with the best of intentions—but it has to stop. Contamination in the recycling stream (by tossing non-recyclables in with recyclables) is the biggest reason for the recycling industry’s collapse.

We’re all confused about what can and can’t be recycled due to conflicting messaging and labeling on products, along with a lack of standardized labeling on recycling bins.

The good news is it’s easy to fix 

What Are The Top Contaminants?

The following tips come from major recycling facilities in the US. However, we always recommend you check with your local hauler first as some recycling programs may take hard-to-recycle items mentioned below.

 Plastic Products

  1. Plastic Bags
    Even though many plastic bags have a chasing arrow symbol claiming, “I’m recyclable!” they aren’t. Plastic bags are not accepted in the recycling stream. Any bagged recyclables will count as contamination and will be sent to the landfill.
  2. Tricky Plastic Items
    Plastic yogurt tubs, plastic bottle caps, plastic utensils, and plastic clamshells—like what your berries or spinach—come in, usually aren’t recyclable. Most plastics 3 to 7 aren’t accepted in curbside bins, but always check with your local hauler.
  3. Other Items
    People commonly wish-cycle styrofoam, which usually has a number 6 on the bottom, and coffee cups, which are made of both paper and plastic. Only glass jars and bottles are recyclable. Companies do not accept glassware or broken glass. Metal hangers and “tanglers” like hoses or rope are also not allowed. With online deliveries, remove any plastic or styrofoam padding, either reusing it or placing it in the trash.  And break down cardboard boxes before recycling them.


How Can We Reduce Wish-Cycling?

When it comes to recycling at home, it’s best to stick with the basics. We are doing more harm than good by wish-cycling.


Recycle Across America’s mission is to expedite environmental progress by helping recycling and next-life manufacturing become a thriving and valuable societal norm. We are implementing a society-wide standardized labeling system for recycling bins to help people begin to recycle right, wherever they may  be.

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