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Celebrating America Recycles Day

America Recycles Day was established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to recognize the importance and impact of recycling. While we still have a lot of work to do in our country to improve the recycling infrastructure and to educate citizens on best practices, the EPA reports that the recycling rate has increased from less than 7% in 1960 to the current rate of 32%. That is both exciting and encouraging!

This is a day to remind ourselves and others that recycling is important, that it makes a real difference, and to encourage proper recycling practices. Let’s check in on these and explore the concept of wishcycling while we’re at it.

You can always check the EPA website for an up-to-date land comprehensive resource about recycling, including all the great benefits it brings and how to contribute.

What Is Wishcycling?

Have you ever put something in the recycling bin because you’re not sure if it can be recycled, and you’re hoping maybe someone will be able to sort it and recycle it? That’s wishcycling. We want to do the right thing by recycling, so we put items we’re not sure about in that blue bin.

So why is wishcycling a problem?

Having non-recyclable items in the waste stream is really challenging for material recovery facilities, or MRFs, which is where our single-stream recycling goes to be sorted.

First, non-recyclable materials like plastic bags and film can clog up the sortation machinery. It can even bring the whole MRF operation to a halt!

Second, some of those non-recyclable materials like oxygen canisters or broken furniture can be really dangerous to people working in MRFs.

Lastly, anything that isn’t recyclable that a MRF has to remove has to be thrown away. This can negatively affect the profitability of the recycling process, and we want recycling to be profitable.  When recycling is profitable, we all benefit.  Profitable recycling operations provides economic benefits in terms of jobs, wages, and tax revenue.  More resources can then be poured back into improving recycling systems, growing operations, and educating citizens on proper recycling practices.

How do we address wishcycling?

As consumers, it’s pretty easy. If you aren’t sure of an item’s recyclability, throw it away. Even better, learn more about what your city does and does not recycle. As businesses, we need to use easier-to-recycle materials to package our products. That’s something Atlantic is working on this America Recycles Day, and every day.

Learn more about Atlantic’s Sustainability Program here.