What is “Wish-Cycling?”

Wish-cycling is the act of placing items in the Blue Bin with the hopes that they will be recycled. We’ve all been guilty of it. But it’s good that we ask ourselves before just tossing anything in our Blue Bin, “Can I recycle this?” 🤔

While wish-cycling is often done with good intentions, it can have a more harmful impact than good. Wish-cycling is a global issue and typically arises from confusion of what we can and cannot recycle in our residential recycling.

Stick With the Six

We preach, “Stick With the Six!” and there’s a good reason why. When you stick with the six, you lower your potential of contaminating valuable recyclables by wish-cycling.

Let’s take a look at the six categories of items we should always recycle in our Blue Bins:

  1. Paper
  2. Flattened Cardboard
  3. Plastic Bottles and Containers
  4. Glass Bottles and Jars
  5. Metal Food and Beverage Cans
  6. Food and Beverage Cartons

    Recycling must be loose, clean and dry before placing in the Blue Bin!

Once recycling is picked up from our dumpsters and rollcarts, it goes to the transfer station. From there, recyclables are loaded into large trucks which make their way to the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), operated locally by Republic Services. Learn what happens to your recycling once it arrives at the MRF to be separated by reading our blog post, Virtual Recycling Facility Tour.

Commonly Wish-Cycled Items

The equipment installed at the MRF is designed for separating and baling the six categories of items listed in our Stick With the Six image. When things end up in the recycling that the equipment is not designed to sort, it creates lots of problems. Items that wrap around and jam machine gears are referred to as tanglers.

Where it all Begins

The first problem that can arise is the jamming of gears as items make their way to be separated and baled. If we put tanglers in the Blue Bin, they will end up wrapping around machine gears and stop the sorting line until they can be manually cut out.

This can stop the recycling sorting process for hours at a time and is very dangerous! 😲

If your wish-cycled items make their way past the gears and get further into the sorting process, they pose another threat. The technology that is used to sort the items is done by a combination of lasers, magnets and currents designed for only the six items we can recycle. When other items are included, they become contamination.

The contamination will eventually make its way into one of the large bales of recyclable items up for sale. If there is too much contamination in the bale, it cannot be sold to make new products.

Not only is wish-cycling costly to the MRF by causing sorting issues and lost production time, but it is also very dangerous to the workers at the facility.

What Can We Do?

In addition to making sure that we all Stick With the Six, we are here to help too! If you don’t know whether you can recycle an item or not, you can snap a picture of your item and email us, send us a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram message, or give us a ring at (314) 772-4646!

1 Comment

  • patti teper says:

    This is so good! I just wish the people who Need it would Read it! But your subject was very appealing, hopefully to those who need to correct their habits.
    But one thing that is Never stressed: these items to be recycled must be Clean! Right?
    Otherwise, they will be rejected and will cantaminate. Right? That is Never mentioned!
    Which ends up negating everything else!

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