Are you guilty of ‘wishcycling’?

(BPT) - 'Wishcycling' is a buzzword for the act of putting items into a recycling bin and hoping they will be recycled. We've all done it. And while our intentions may be good, more often than not, we have no idea where our materials end up or whether our efforts are even worth it. But with a better understanding of how to properly recycle different types of items, we can all do our part to combat the mounting stress on our landfills and planet. Following are a few tips and tricks for making your recycling wishes come true.

Separate stretchy films from other plastics

You might be thinking plastic is plastic but, when it comes to recycling, there are actually six categories of plastics. To distinguish between these different types of plastic, look for the number within the recycling symbol on the product or packaging.

  • #1: PET or PETE is the most common plastic for single-use bottled beverages, mouthwash bottles, salad dressing and peanut butter containers.
  • #2: HDPE (high density polyethylene) is used in many packing items, including milk jugs, juice bottles, some trash and shopping bags and cereal box liners.
  • #3: PVC or V plastic can be found in blister packaging, wire jacketing, siding, windows and piping.
  • #4: LDPE (low density polyethylene) is a flexible plastic found in items like bread bags, packaging for frozen foods, newspaper sleeves, dry cleaning bags and grocery/retail shopping bags.
  • #5: PP plastic is found in yogurt containers, syrup and medicine bottles, caps and straws.
  • #6: PS includes items like disposable plates and cups, meat trays, egg cartons, carry-out containers and aspirin bottles.

Generally, the higher the number, the less recyclable the material is. Most recycling centers will accept #1 plastics without a problem, but other rigid plastics (#3, #5 and #7) can be tricky. Double-check what's acceptable in your local area before contaminating collection bins.

Plastics marked as #2 or #4 are considered flexible plastics or films and must be handled differently from other types of plastic. Due to their stretchy nature, they cannot be recycled through standard curbside or single-stream recycling programs because they can jam machinery during the sorting process, causing mechanical issues, delays and contamination. These plastics need to be separated from other recyclables and processed through recycling programs dedicated specifically to HDPE and LDPE materials.

Know where your recyclables go

The best way to stop wishcycling is to focus on upcycling. This means knowing exactly where your recyclables are going and how they will be used. For instance, Trex® composite decking is sustainably made from 95% reclaimed materials, including a mix of industrial wood scrap and recycled polyethylene plastic film, nearly all of which comes from post-consumer sources. Through its nationwide NexTrex® recycling program, the company partners with more than 32,000 grocery store chains and major retailers along with thousands of schools and community groups to make it easy and convenient for eco-minded consumers to responsibly dispose of #2 and #4 flexible plastics and give them new life as beautiful, durable and eco-friendly composite decking. One of the largest recyclers of plastic film in North America, Trex has saved more than 5 billion pounds of HDPE and LDPE plastics from winding up in landfills over the past 30 years. A complete list of items that can be recycled by Trex along with a list of plastic film drop-off locations by state is available on the company's website.

Make recycling part of your routine

Recycling doesn't have to be a chore. It can easily be done as part of your daily routine. Most grocery stores have collection bins conveniently positioned at the front of the store. Many schools, churches and community centers also participate in recycling programs and serve as drop-off points for local residents. Check your municipality's website to learn more about the programs your community has in place for recycling, or visit to find a plastic film drop-off location near you.

April 17, 2023

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