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The worries caused by wish-cycling

31.08.20

Have you ever been unsure if something was recyclable and still thrown it in your recycling bin in the hope the recycling system will sort it for you?

You’re not alone. Although well intentioned, hoping that the recycling system will be able to find a way to recycle your old rubbish isn’t the right decision when trying to be more sustainable.

In fact, this reaction is so common that it even has its own name, “wish-cycling”, it’s the practice of tossing questionable items in the recycling bin, hoping they can somehow be recycled.

Although wish-cycling is done with good intentions in the hope of recycling more materials it actually costs time, money and valuable resources that would otherwise be used in the recycling process.

Mark Penny, Commercial Manager at J&B Recycling, said: “Wish-cycling is a long-standing problem in the UK recycling system and can risk breaking machinery and delaying an entire Material Recycling Facility (MRF) from processing all the waste it potentially could.”

In January this year J&B Recycling recorded its highest amount of material ever processed, with a totally of 140,000 tonnes from April 2018 to March 2019.

The company currently operates from four sites across a total of 20 acres of developed facilities in the North East and employs more than 200 people, continually running the site without problems from wish-cycling is very important.

After your recycling is collected it will make its way to a MRF, these facilities have very sophisticated technology to sort and process your recyclables and when items like textiles, toys, full bottles, metal pans and boxes with food still in them make their way into the recycling it can cause blockages, damage to the machinery and hinder the recycling process.

For example a toolbox might me made out of metal, but a MRF processing kerbside recyclables is designed to recover metal packaging such as empty drink cans and food tins, not large, heavy, solid metal items. The equipment may not be able to recognise the difference between the two and the toolbox may have to be pulled out by hand to prevent damage and blockages in the plant.

Mark adds: “Wish-cycling can ultimately cause more waste in the long-run. Throwing away items that can damage the MRF equipment, or that cannot be recovered for recycling via a MRF could result in downtime at the plant leading to nothing being recycled, until everything is up and running again, reduce the efficiency of the MRF and or increase the amount of residual waste generated as a result. A little bit of research can prevent this from happening.”

So, how do you stop wish-cycling and instead become a recycling-pro?

You can use Recycle Now’s locator tool to find out what can be recycled and where. Each local authority is different as waste can go to different MRFs, so make sure to check for your specific area.

Any items that cannot be placed in your kerbside recycling may still be recycled using the correct collection points. You can find this under “Where to recycle a specific item”.

For further information on how J&B Recycling can help you to improve your recycling efficiency please contact us.

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