Every day, we are confronted with a variety of packaging from the products we purchase, which often end up in either the recycling or landfill bins at the end of use depending on proper disposal methods of the item. However, one particular habit in our recycling practices leads to rippling, detrimental effects on the environment.
Picture this: you’re just had your daily coffee and now, standing in front of a landfill and recycling bin with a to-go coffee cup in hand, you’re wondering – which goes where? Thinking that perhaps both the plastic lid and the paper cup can and should be recycled, you merrily wishcycle them both, happy that you have done our planet a favor.
What you will be unaware of is the fact that you may have just contaminated the waste stream.
What is wishcycling?
The Washington State Department of Ecology defines wishcycling as items in our recycle bin that we’re unsure are accepted in our local recycling program, that we hope are somehow recyclable.
We hate to break it to you – but, unfortunately, simply wishing that an item to be recyclable in recycling facilities does not make it so!
Why we should avoid wishclcying
Wishcycling might have been unintentional with genuine intentions in mind, but there are good reasons to avoid it.
In the long run, wishcycling creates more waste as it contributes to contamination of the recycling stream. A contaminated recycling stream runs a risk of rendering the entire recycling batch impossible to be processed. This may lead to the eventual disposal at the landfills.
Since wishcycling contributes to contamination of the recycling stream, it reverses all the time and effort made in sorting and separating the materials.
Wishcycling also hurts the recycling industry. According to Domtar, when you recycle an item that is not recyclable at the local recycling facility, the item could damage the equipment. In other cases, it may require extra help to pre-sort the items to prevent such damage. Over time, recycling may no longer be economically feasible; if this happens, recycling facilities may be closed down.
On a global level, years of wishcycling across the world may very well have contributed to the strict restrictions on the contamination rate set by China. Soon after, China also implemented the National Sword policy which banned all imports of recyclables as an effort to halt a slew of contaminated materials overwhelming their facilities.
What is the recycling rate in Malaysia?
According to Khazanah Research Institute, the recycling rate in Malaysia stands at 28% in 2018, which is low compared to other countries such as Singapore (61%) and Germany (68%). Waste generation in Malaysia has also steadily increased throughout the years, and plastic comprised 20% of the total waste generated.
Currently, plastics in the 1 (PET), 2 (HDPE) and 5 (Polypropene) categories out of the seven in total are recyclable in Malaysia.
What can you do to avoid wishcycling?
When you catch yourself just about to toss everything into the recycling bin before truly knowing if they are recyclable, remind yourself of the rippling effects of your actions on the greater picture!
The next step is to learn about what is truly recyclable and what is not. To recycle items correctly, it is also important to clean and dry the items before leaving them in the recycling bins. If composting is a viable option, be sure to compost as well.
If you do find yourself hesitating at the bins once again with items you are unsure of, here are some words to go by – when in doubt, throw it out! Admittedly, this is not the most ideal solution, but a practical one. Again, it is worth noting that the implications of wishcycling on the recycling system as a whole should not be taken lightly.
Within our teams at Biji-biji, we diligently recycle and try our absolute best to recycle our items; if they are not recyclable, they are disposed of properly. Check out the waste management system at our office at Publika here!
Ultimately, it is best if we reduce consumption overall and find innovative ways to upcycle our waste, giving it a newfound value. At Biji-biji Initiative, we believe in the power of diverse, innovative solutions in solving the globe’s most pressing issues.
Do you find yourself wishcycling often? How are you taking steps toward avoiding it? Let us know!