One thing that rarely gets talked about in recycling is the problem of contamination. Simply put - it is putting things in the recycle bin that are not recyclable. And it's a huge problem. When you put things in your recycling bin that can't be recycled, you are making the entire system more expensive and harder to manage. There is even a word for it - wishcycling. The industry has created this pretty cute term to describe a problem that is bad and only getting worse.
One thing you may not know is that up until recently, we used to sell our recycling to China (don't get us started on how crazy that is), but they stopped accepting recycling from the U.S. because it was too contaminated. In fact, they set a limit for contamination which is 5%. Seems pretty reasonable. You can't have more than 5% of things in the bundle that can't be recycled.
But the U.S. was no where near that level. In fact, most of what we were sending China was 30% or higher on the contamination scale. What are we putting in there that we shouldn't be?
- plastic bags
- coffee cups
- food waste / unconsumed drinks
- toys, garden containers, hoses
- film packaging like chip bags or salad bags
And the list goes on and on.
We got to see wishcycling in action this weekend when MeCycle participated in the awesome Pound Ridge Fall Festival. We had our MeCycle bins there (only bottles and cans please) and the festival organizers were so thoughtful and had wine and water from suppliers that package in aluminum. But as we circled around to check on our bins a few times, we saw how much wishcycling was going into the regular recycling bin. Dirty food containers, Beer glasses still half full of beer. Silly string cans.
So we'd like to go on record to say - it's time to stop the wishcycling madness. When you put a dirty food container in the recycling, it ruins the bin. It may make you feel like you are doing the right thing, but it really is a disaster.
So please, only put things in the bin that you KNOW can be recycled. And for bottles and cans (that usually can be returned for a deposit), there is MeCycle. You can get your deposits back or donate them to causes we support.