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Wishcycling… or just a delusion?

Is there anything in everyday domestic life that carries more confusion – and guilt – than the recycling bin?

Do I have to wash my recycling – and if so does it need a quick rinse or a proper scrub with soapy water? (Answer: a proper scrub, as food contamination can ruin the whole load.) Can I recycle pizza boxes? (Not if they’re greasy, apparently.) Cardboard boxes are fine, right? (Nope, not if they’re plastered in sticky tape.)

Increasingly I find myself dithering, arm aloft holding the lid up, before depositing the contentious object into the “normal” bin for fear of contaminating a whole load of recyclables.

It has been the source of tension with my partner, as I fish cellophane and (eugh) used tissues out of the recycling with passive-aggressive deliberation.

I fret over lids and labels, pumps and pouches. How can bin day be so fraught?

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Recycling plastic is doing more harm than we realise – so what’s the alternative?

The practice of over-recycling is known as “wishcycling”. A full recycling bin makes us feel a little more virtuous, happy to forget all about what happens once our bags are whisked away.

Yet we now know that much of our contaminated recycling ends up in landfill anyway, so really it’s more a delusion than a wish.

No wonder recycling rates are still lagging pre-Covid levels.

So I’m relieved to get some clear guidance on how to recycle more judiciously, and perhaps more successfully as a result.

It’s going to be so much easier to do our bit if we have clear rules on exactly how to do it. I’d rather certainty to wishful thinking any day – and, who knows, perhaps it will even add a certain sense of satisfaction to washing out my next tin of tomatoes.

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