We all know the good feeling of throwing paper, glass, aluminum, or whatever else in the recycling bin. We’ve just done our part to save the environment, right?

Unfortunately, this is not the case. And that’s where the term “wishcycling” comes into play. Wishcycling describes the problem of wrong materials that are ending up in the recycling bin and with that, not only driving up the recycling costs and causing harm to recycling workers but also making some materials “non-recyclable” (Gillies, 2018). 

Wishcycling exists because of a noble reason: People like you and I, want to do the right thing. But to have this positive impact we all aim for, we have to put the right things in the bins (Gillies, 2018) and not just as many as possible.

Now you are probably thinking: “I know what to recycle and what not. This doesn’t concern me”. Good for you! But did you know, that greasy pizza boxes, coffee cups, styrofoam, plastic utensils, and plastic bags are among the most “wrongfully-recycled” items? When they end up in the recycling bins, they can contaminate an entire recycling batch and make the entire load impossible to process and thus properly recycle (Robinson, 2018). 

So, how can you make a stop to wishcycling? Here are three things you can do: 

  1. Reuse, refuse and only then recycle. Try to reduce the amount of single-use items in your household. Before making a purchase ask yourself: “Is there a way I can prevent this item or material to ever end up in the waste or recycling bin?”
  2. Research. If you are really concerned about sustainability, make use of resources like our “NOW Care Guide to Recycling” (coming soon!) that can help you figure out what is in truth recyclable and what not. Don’t just assume that the recycling facility will take care of the sorting for you. 
  3. Share. Share what you know and learned about recycling with your family, flatmates, coworkers, or friends. Maybe you can even make your recycling efforts a fun tradition? Before you bring out your recycling bins, go through it all as a team, and soon it will become natural to you and your peers. You could even use our template in the “Guide to Recycling” and hang it up above your bin? 

With some self-education, determination, and respectful consumption you can take a small step to a more sustainable society.


Gillies, T. (2018, November 19). How to keep recycling from turning into ‘wishcycling’. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/11/16/how-to-keep-recycling-from-turning-into-wishcycling.html.

Robinson, S. (2018, April 24). The Dangers of “Wishcycling. Waste Management Media Room. https://mediaroom.wm.com/the-dangers-of-wishcycling/

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