August 9, 2023
You just finished a cup of soda in a disposable container with a plastic lid and straw. You are late to work, didn’t eat breakfast, your kid is calling you about who knows what, and now you are faced with a choice: throwing your waste into the trash can or the recycling bin.
In our increasingly busy lives, figuring out what is recyclable or not on a time crunch is difficult. Plus, there is seemingly no harm in throwing something in the recycling bin. Someone at the recycling facility can surely figure out how to turn it into a new item on the shelf, right?
Turns out, there is a name for this phenomenon: wishcycling, or recycling something only in hopes that it’s recyclable. While throwing an unrecyclable plastic straw or a plastic lid into the blue bin seems innocuous, it can cause serious problems. About 25% of recycling in the United States is contaminated by unrecyclable materials, mainly because of wish cycling. Non-recyclable materials clog and damage recycling machines, require more labor and money to sort out, and ultimately deteriorate the ability to turn materials into new products.
These issues can make contaminated loads unacceptable by recycling sorting facilities. So, what can we do?
1. Abide by the mantra “When in doubt, throw it out.” If you are unsure if something is recyclable, throw it away.
2. Learn more about recycling. Visit recycleutah.org for information on what is accepted in curbside bins and at Recycle Utah.
3. Educate others! If someone throws an unrecyclable item into the trash, let them know.
Montana Burack, Junior at Park City High School