‘Wish-Cycling’ is not ‘Recycling’: Stop this trend!
‘Wish-cycling’ is a potentially dangerous trend that occurs when members of the public interested in protecting our environment attempt to recycling non-recyclable items. Many of us have encountered a situation where we are unsure whether the item in our hand is recyclable or not. The curbside program was mainly designed for consumer packaging and paper. Saskatchewan residents typically do an excellent job at recycling the basics such as paper and cardboard as well as aluminum and tin cans. However, the problem with ‘wish-cycling’ occurs when items outside of this scope such as plastic straws, stuffed toys, electrical cords and car seats are placed into the recycling carts in “hopes” they will be recycled instead of sending them to a landfill. After all, Timmy the Teddy Bear is recyclable – isn’t he?
Unbeknownst to the recycler, that non-recyclable item just placed into the blue cart causes recycling facilities major issues including contamination of clean recyclables, damages machines, and causes worker safety concerns. When non-approved materials travel across the conveyor line they are pulled off and sent to the landfill. On occasion, non-recyclable items will get missed along the sorting line, getting baled with other materials before being shipped to paper mills or plastics manufacturers. At arrival, bales are inspected and non-approved items are discarded by employees or machinery. By placing non-recyclable items into your blue recycling cart it wastes time, money, energy, and causes more waste overall. Why? Those plastic straws are not compatible with other recyclable plastics because they do not have a #1 to #7 recycling triangle on them and are therefore garbage. Gently used plush toys can be donated instead of abandoning them next to your curbside cart. Electrical cords and car seats contain more than one type of recyclable material. Both are required to be sent away to specialized companies that will disassemble these products to ensure all components get recycled properly. Due to many constraints, such items cannot be properly recycled at a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) and are thus discarded as garbage.
The Loraas Recycle MRF utilizes highly trained individuals and a network of machines to sort through loose items placed into blue carts and bins. Often the workers contend with large wooden pallets, broken toys, propane tanks, and used syringes. These items drastically slow down processing or, in the case of some fire extinguishers, halt operations completely. Furthermore, operation productivity is diminished and non-recyclable items cause dangers to a facility’s employees as well. Propane tanks are recyclable at approved facilities but they are not accepted for the City of Saskatoon‘s curbside recycling program. When Loraas workers remove the tank from a moving conveyor belt it can put them at risk for getting poked in the hand or stomach by a used syringe or hit by large, fast-moving cardboard box. Please don’t let your innocent actions put others at risk. This is where public information campaigns can combat such ‘wish-cycling’.
Materials that are not approved for recycling or compost programs belong in the garbage. There are four waste streams, which include recycling, landfill, organics, and waste diversion and these function best when everyone uses them correctly. So what can you do to help stop the trend of ‘wish-cycling’? First, Loraas recommends finding out what is approved for your recycling and composting programs. You can do this by visiting your municipalities’ local website or our “What Can Be Recycled?” webpage for more information. If you are not sure whether an item is recyclable, use local recycling search engines (like www.swrc.ca) to look it up before placing it in the cart. In most cases, you may be able to divert that “waste” instead of sending it to a landfill; taking up valuable space. Second, you can improve your home habits by having the correct waste carts placed in strategic places around your house. For example, you could place an organics cart near your kitchen or a recycling bin in your office. If we work together and “Think Smart, Recycle Smart,” we can combat ‘wish-cycling’ together!