What is Wishcycling?

What is Wishcycling?


Whether you realize it or not, there's a good chance you and your co-workers have all wishcycled before. Trust me, we get it! You don't want to generate more waste, so you throw your coffee cups or pizza boxes into the recycling bin, hoping that some way, somehow, they end up being recycled. Here at RoadRunner and throughout the recycling industry, we refer to this act as wishcycling. Even though it seems like the right thing to do, wishcycling is one of the biggest challenges facing the recycling industry. In this blog post, we further define wishcycling, the impacts it has on the recycling industry, and what steps you can take to break the habit.



Also known as aspirational recycling, wishcycling leads to an array of problems in the recycling process. From used takeout containers to paper coffee cups, items that may seem recyclable can contaminate whole loads of valuable materials, making them impossible to process and sell. It only takes one non-recyclable item to contaminate an entire load of recyclables and force recyclers to send them to landfill.

Wishcycling also complicates the sorting process for recycling centers, as recyclable contamination and 'rogue' materials lead to higher sorting costs and delayed timelines. Items like plastic bags and greasy pizza boxes easily clog up sorting machines, eliminating the value that existed for the recyclables in the first place. When this happens over and over, communities sometimes decide to shut down their recycling programs and send all of their recyclables to landfill instead.

How To Avoid Wishcycling

Learning which items can and can't be recycled can help put an end to wishcycling. It's always important to check in locally to confirm which items your program accepts, but below are the most common dos and don'ts to help you get started. Download our helpful one-pager here if you're interested in sharing this information with your colleagues.

Do recycle plastics 1-2 as noted on the plastic container (PETE #1 and HDPE #2), clean cardboard and mixed paper products, and rinsed and dried aluminum, glass, and plastic containers. Whenever possible, compost your food waste too! Sort your recyclable materials by stream to ensure they remain clean, uncontaminated, and valuable.

Do not recycle paper and foam coffee cups, plastic shopping bags, greasy pizza boxes, plastic utensils, straws, coffee pods, coffee cups, Styrofoam, thin plastics, and containers with food and drink residue. Please place all non-recyclable or questionable items into the trash to prevent contamination.

Stop Wishcycling, Start Recycling Correctly

The simple act of keeping materials clean can make a huge difference! The next time you go to throw something in your recycling bin that you aren’t sure about, do a quick search or reach out to one of our recycling experts who will be happy to help! RoadRunner Recycling’s goal is to provide service that makes recycling easier for everyone. By educating our customers, we aim to provide them with the appropriate assets and information to efficiently, sustainably, and economically recycle goods to provide value. Leave us a comment if you're interested in learning more today!



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