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MAKE A WISH (What is wishcycling?)

In our collective quest for environmental sustainability, recycling has become a cornerstone of responsible waste management. However, a phenomenon known as wishcycling has emerged, casting a shadow on our well-intentioned efforts. Wishcycling refers to the act of tossing questionable items into recycling bins, hoping they will somehow be recycled, without considering the repercussions. You might be guilty of this, dropping that piece of paper in the plastics pile. I’d like us to delve into the concept of wishcycling, explore its impact on recycling systems, and provide practical tips to help us avoid falling into this well-intentioned but misguided trap. 

Wishcycling can be best described as the act of placing items in recycling bins that are not accepted or recyclable in our local recycling systems. It stems from the desire to divert as much waste as possible from landfills, but unfortunately, it can have detrimental effects on the recycling process. Wishcycling often occurs when we’re unsure about an item’s recyclability, or when we falsely assume that all materials can be recycled. 

While the intentions behind wishcycling are admirable, the consequences can be counterproductive. When non-recyclable items end up in recycling bins, they can contaminate the entire batch, making it challenging to process and recycle the materials effectively. Contamination can lead to increased costs, reduced recycling efficiency, and, in some cases, entire batches of recyclables being diverted to landfills instead. If you have had a look at a landfill in Uganda, you will know our concerns.

How to Avoid Wishcycling: 

Start by familiarizing yourself with your local recycling guidelines. Understand which materials are accepted and which ones are not. Most municipalities have detailed information available online or through local waste management agencies. In Uganda, this may not be the most plausible option because our regulations for recycling are unclear and not enforced yet.  

Once you know what can be recycled, stick to those guidelines and follow the rules. Avoid the temptation to recycle items just because they seem similar to others that are accepted. When in doubt, it’s better to err on the side of caution and dispose of the item properly. 

Recycling is just one part of the waste management hierarchy. We must prioritize reducing and reusing items whenever possible. By minimizing our consumption and finding creative ways to repurpose or donate items, we can reduce the need for wishcycling altogether. 

For items that aren’t recyclable through regular channels, we must explore alternative recycling programs or specialized facilities that may accept them. Some organizations collect specific materials, such as electronics, batteries, or certain types of plastics, for responsible disposal or recycling. 

While wishcycling may arise from good intentions, it poses significant challenges to the efficiency and effectiveness of recycling systems. By educating ourselves, adhering to local guidelines, and embracing the reduce-reuse mindset, we can avoid wish cycling and contribute to a more sustainable future. Let’s shift our focus from wishful thinking to informed action, ensuring that our recycling efforts truly make a positive impact on the environment. Remember, each small step we take in the right direction adds up to significant change. Let’s recycle responsibly and empower others to do the same. Together, we can make a difference. 

Credit: Freepik

“Wishcycling is like blowing out a candle and making a wish that your waste will magically get recycled. It’s time to stop wishing and start recycling right.”