Raise your hand if you’ve put something in the recycling bin because you’re sorta sure that “it should be recycled.” We’ve all been there, standing in front of the bin with something in our hand that we’re not completely sure about, but toss it in, “just in case.” You gotta err on the side of caution and the facility can sort it out — right?
Well, not entirely…
This practice is called “Wish-cycling” and while it’s done with the best of intentions, can actually do more harm than good. Recycling operations survive by collecting, sorting, and then selling recycled material. This is typically done in batches, and if a non-recyclable item finds its way in, it can contaminate the entire batch.
Here are some commonly Wish-cycled items that cannot go into your curbside recycling bin:
- Plastic bags or wrap (shopping, food storage, etc.)
- Food or drink pouches
- Shredded paper
- Textiles (clothing, rags, etc.)
- Drinking glasses
- Glass storage containers/jars
- Plastic garden pots
- Loose bottle caps
- Paper towels, tissue paper and wax paper
- Light bulbs
- To-go coffee cups (wax lined)
- Keurig K-Cups/similar
Most recycling facilities rely on complex machinery to sort and process our recyclables. These machines are designed to recognize and divert a specific set of items — namely, the items accepted by your local recycling program. When things like plastic wrap, shredded paper, or bottle caps get tossed in with proper recycling items, they can jam up the machinery. It’s not uncommon that workers need to shut down the machines and spend few hours fixing these issues, which minimizes their capacity to recycle more items.
Getting familiar with the requirements of Ontario County’s recycling program will help you make the most of your good intentions. Feel free to contact us with any questions you have!