Old wooden furniture, computer keyboard, golf clubs and rugs…what do these things all have in common? They’ve all ended up in a Charleston County recycling bin, but they don’t belong there! The staggering statistic from the EPA, estimating that “75% of American waste is recyclable, but only 30% actually is recycled,” may be the reason behind this mistake. As a conservation-minded community, we try and do everything we can to combat this statement from being true in Charleston. The problem, however, comes when we wish-cycle.
How many times have we finished a box of takeout or done a deep clean of our household items and wondered where that waste should go? Does it belong in the garbage or in the recycling bin? Surely, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so we place it in the recycling bin. And so begins the wish-cycle spiral.
Wish-cycling is done with great intention, but the contamination it causes can actually hurt the recycling process. In short, wish-cycling makes more waste, because those recycling-approved items that come into contact with non-recyclables often cannot be used and end up in the landfill. So how can we combat this and create the most sustainable stream for all types of waste?
Steps to Stop the Wish-Cycle Spiral
First and foremost – try to reduce your use! Choose sustainable alternatives, buy items with less packaging, etc. Recycling is one solution, but reducing or reusing is far more effective.
Learn the goods. What you think should be recycled may actually be incorrect – don’t just go with your gut.
Rinse your items. If one item is contaminated, they all can become contaminated. Take the extra minute to rinse those bottles and cans!
Don’t fear landfill! Some items do need to end up there, and that’s okay. It keeps the wrong items from ending up at the recycling center.
Leave recycling loose. Plastic bags are difficult to recycle, so why put your recycled items in one? It’s best if it’s loose in the bin!
When in doubt, talk it out. Ask your local municipality what their procedures are. Every area is different, and there’s no “one size fits all” in the recycling realm. There are also drop off locations for all kinds of items that aren’t recyclable that they can direct you to!