Wish Cycling: Avoiding inappropriate recycling

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El reciclaje es una práctica esencial para reducir el impacto ambiental que provoca el exceso de residuos y avanzar hacia una sociedad más sostenible y verde. Sin embargo, en este esfuerzo por ser más más responsables con el planeta, caemos en la trampa del “Wish Cycling”. Un término acuñado por el presidente de Dem-Con Companies,  Bill Keegan, para definir el comportamiento de aquellas personas que, en su deseo de reciclar y cuidar el medio ambiente, tiran los residuos a los diferentes contenedores de selectiva sin saber si es el destino correcto. Y es que, para que reciclar sea una práctica sostenible y efectiva, antes de hacerlo se debe clasificar los desechos por fracción. 

What is Wish Cycling?

When we talk about “Wish Cycling” we refer to the practice of depositing waste in recycling bins in the hope that it will be recyclable, even when it is not intended for recycling. This well-intentioned but misguided action generates contamination and increases processing costs for recycling facilities. To make it easier to understand, let’s take an example: a toothbrush, despite being made of plastic and being a recyclable material, cannot be recovered. The reason? It is a personal hygiene product and, like razors, can contaminate other waste.

Therefore, we can say that Wish Cycling is a bad recycling practice that hinders the waste sorting and separation process in waste treatment plants, as non-recyclable materials must be deposited in the residual waste containers to be disposed of properly. Doing otherwise slows down the process and can result in large quantities of recyclable materials being discarded along with non-recyclable materials.

Bad practices in recycling

Wish Cycling manifests itself through poor recycling practices. Some of the most common are:

  • Recycling contaminated or dirty materials: Many people tend to recycle packaging or bottles that still contain food or liquid residues. This causes contamination of other recyclable materials and reduces their market value.
  • Putting non-recyclable materials in the selective waste bins: tissues, wet wipes, sanitary towels and nappies, razor blades and toothbrushes are some of the many types of waste that cannot be collected through the municipal collection system. For this reason, they cannot be deposited in the selective waste bins and must be thrown away in the residual waste bin.
  • Recycling unidentified plastics: some plastics lack recycling codes and their inclusion in the recycling container complicates their treatment. Others, despite being made of plastic, cannot be disposed of in traditional bins and must be deposited at recycling points for proper treatment.
  • Include small and difficult to recycle items: Although there are treatment plants in our country that have equipment to recycle caps, lids and labels, there are others where small waste goes unnoticed. This makes them difficult to recycle and they can contaminate other materials.

How to avoid Wish Cycling?

To tackle the problem of Wish Cycling and promote effective and sustainable recycling, it is essential to learn how to separate waste properly and know where to dispose of it for correct waste management. Thus, some recommendations to avoid Wish Cycling are:

  • Educate and raise awareness among citizens: it is important to make the population aware of the importance of separating waste correctly at home and also to inform them about the infrastructures that municipalities make available to them for recycling. Environmental awareness campaigns can help to reduce Wish Cycling and, in this way, preserve the planet.
  • Wash recyclable materials: It is not only important to know where to dispose of waste, but also how to dispose of it correctly. Therefore, before recycling, it is advisable to wash containers and bottles to remove any food or liquid residues.
  • Know the local recycling system: each municipality or country has a different recycling system. Knowing which materials are accepted in local recycling bins and which waste should be deposited in eco-parks or clean points is necessary to avoid contamination of recyclable materials.
  • Learn about recycling codes: Understanding the recycling codes on plastic packaging can help distinguish which products are recyclable and which are not.

Impact of Wish Cycling on recycling

Wish Cycling has a negative impact on the recycling process in several ways:

  • Contamination of materials: the inclusion of unwanted waste in selective waste bins leads to the contamination of recyclable materials, reducing their value and making their recovery more difficult.
  • Increased waste to landfill: when recyclable materials are contaminated with non-recyclable elements, they may end up in landfills, wasting valuable resources.
  • Higher processing costs: the separation of non-recyclable materials in recycling plants requires more time and resources, which increases operating costs.
  • Fewer recycled materials: when recyclable materials are contaminated and end up in landfills, opportunities to recycle and reuse these resources are wasted.
  • Damage to recycling machinery: inappropriate materials can damage recycling plant equipment, affecting efficiency and increasing maintenance costs.

Promoting responsible recycling

Responsible recycling starts with each of us and our daily choices. Here are some ways to promote more responsible recycling:

  • Shop responsibly: it’s not about not shopping, but about shopping wisely. Before going to the supermarket, make a list and stick to it. This will help you avoid throwing away unused and out-of-date products.
  • Opt for recyclable and recycled products: by choosing products made from recyclable or recycled materials, we promote the circular economy and the sustainable use of resources.
  • Reuse, repair or donate: there are products that, due to their characteristics, can have a second life. This is the case of clothing, footwear, toys and electrical appliances. Before recycling, reuse, repair or donate.
  • Be aware of the municipal recycling system: making sure to follow local recycling guidelines and programmes helps to ensure that materials are processed properly.

Wish Cycling is a common but harmful practice that we must avoid in order to promote effective and sustainable recycling. By educating ourselves about which materials are recyclable and adopting proper recovery practices, we can reduce pollution, save valuable resources and move towards a Circular Economy. Individual responsibility in recycling is essential, and by reducing our consumption of single-use products and fostering a culture of responsible recycling, we can move towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future for generations to come. Change starts with us, and together we can make a difference in the proper management of our waste and the preservation of the planet.

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