What is wish-cycling?
Wish-cycling is placing non-recyclable items in the recycling bins in the hopes that somehow they can be recycled. It is usually done with good intentions; wanting to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill. However, wish-cycling can cause the opposite outcome, as it can lead to whole truckloads of recyclable materials being sent to landfills.
In the recycling markets, there needs to be a business willing to purchase and repurpose a material for it to be recycled. In Kingston, the recyclables are picked up at the curb, sorted and baled at the Kingston Area Recycling Centre (KARC), and finally sold to recycling processors or end markets that will make new items from the recyclables. If no market exists for a material, it cannot be recycled, even if people “wish” it would be.
Why is it so important that only acceptable items end up in the recycling bin? Companies who purchase the materials do not want – and often will refuse to accept – bales of recycling containing non-recyclable products (contaminants). If a bale contains too many contaminants, the recyclable material can receive a quality downgrade which can significantly decrease the value of the materials or it will be rejected completely. Rejected materials will either need to be re-sorted at very high costs or more than likely it will end up landfilled.
The City of Kingston works hard to prevent contamination in the bales of recycling that are shipped form KARC, but as more new and more complex packaging products come onto the market, it becomes increasingly difficult to sort these products efficiently and effectively. Once you add in wish-cycled materials to the mix, the number of products slipping past our recycling sorters can only increase. It is extremely important that non-recyclable, wish-cycled items are not added to the recycling stream, as they increase the complexity of sorting. The more complex the mix of materials received at KARC, the more difficult it is to keep the outgoing materials clean of contaminants.
Some of the items that are commonly misplaced in the recycling bin in Kingston include: bubble wrap, stand up pouches (think frozen fruit bags), non-stretchy bags (such as chip and cookie bags), coloured Styrofoam and wrapping paper.
The City has a solution to wish-cycling.
Search items on the Waste Sorting Lookup tool if you are unsure whether they are recyclable or not. It is available both on the “Kingston Waste” app and online at CityofKingston.ca/WasteLookup. This super useful tool will tell you how to dispose of those pesky items you just don’t know what to do with. If an item is not currently on the Lookup tool, please send your suggestion and we will add it to our database. If you are looking to dispose of these items, many other people likely are too.