Are you a wish cycler?

Is someone in your family wish cycling? 

You know the drill. You’re standing next to your recycling cart, making that final call if the item goes in there or not. You’re not totally sure, you hope it’s recyclable, and as a great champion of the environment, you err on the side of caution. 

You toss it into the recycling cart, assuming it will all work itself out, that someone somewhere will take care of it, the right way. 

That behaviour just described is commonly known in the waste biz as “wish cycling” — tossing questionable household items into the recycling cart, hoping they can somehow be recycled.  

If you recognize that you’ve practised wish cycling, you’re not alone. It’s a common and troublesome occurrence for a slew of reasons. And it’s not just here at depots and in curbside carts in Kelowna, but right across the country. 

The types of items that cause the problems vary slightly from region to region, but there are rafts of them that frequently show up at recycling processing facilities and cause problems when they just don’t belong.  

For example, plastic bags and wrap cause equipment malfunctions and sometimes full on plant shutdowns. Glass, sharps, hazardous wastes cause worker injuries, and contamination of the end product.  

Garbage and other non-recyclable plastics that don’t belong can be difficult to spot or sort and end up contaminating other ‘clean’ recyclables.  

We’ve been hearing a lot about that lately as global markets have tightened up and many overseas end markets are refusing even slightly contaminated commodities that used to be accepted. 

The household recycling you have so fervently sorted at home with all good intention is often hard if not impossible to market or recycle — if it has items that just don’t belong.

So what are the some of the offending culprits that lead to all the trouble, and should not be wish cycled, ever? 

Here's a list, Items that should stay out of your recycling cart, always:

  • Durable plastic products — plastic toys, hangers, tupperware-type containers, laundry baskets, straws, plastic cutlery, plastic dishes
  • Hard and soft cover books — text books and novels
  • Textiles -— clothes, pillows, sheets, rags, shoes
  • Scrap metal — pots and pans, auto parts, chains, bike parts
  • Plastic bags (take these to a depot)
  • Glass jars (take these to a depot)
  • Styrofoam (take this to a depot)
  • Electronics (take these to a depot)
  • Soft plastics -—cling wrap, stand up pouches, cereal bags, chip bags, candy wrappers etc.
  • Hazardous wastes — chemical containers, propane tanks, sharps

What to do if you’ve been wish cycling  

Stop the trend as soon as you can, and help your friends and family kick the wish cycling habit too.

What to do with all those items you just are not sure about? Get familiar with the requirements and guidelines of your local recycling program so that your good intentions stay that way. 

Tools to help you get there 

Go online to regionaldistrict.com/recycle to view current recycle menus. Download a handy guide to post on your fridge or recycle cart or somewhere prominent in your home for the whole family to see. And while you’re at it, download the free and easy to use MyWasteapp; all the info you need at the touch of a fingertip.   

Or, anytime, call the Regional Waste Reduction Office at 250-469-6250. We’re here to help.


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About the Author

Rae Stewart is a waste reduction facilitator with the Central Okanagan Regional District and passionate about sharing information on all things related to waste-less living.

Contact her at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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