Almost three in four UK consumers (72%) admit to putting rubbish in recycling bins without being sure it can be recycled, according to new research by recipe box company Gousto.
The survey found the vast majority of Brits (71%) find packaging labels and guidance on recycling confusing and as a result, almost half of us (45%) are often unsure what can and can’t be recycled from our household waste.
The well-intentioned act of putting something in the recycling bin because you hope, or wish, it could be recycled is known as ‘wishcycling’ and causes more problems than putting it straight in the bin. This is because it can lead to the contamination of other materials in the recycling bin and in the worst-case scenario, results in the whole lot going to landfill.
The research found people in the North East of England are most clued up and careful about recycling, with less than a third (31%) saying they regularly or occasionally ‘wishcycle’ their rubbish. Those in Northern Ireland are least careful (51%).
There are two types of ‘wishcycling’. The first is throwing packaging that cannot be sorted and processed in with mixed household recycling. This includes both rubbish that can’t be recycled at all, like foil pouches and paper towels, as well as items that can be recycled but need specialist processing. The latter includes broken drinking glasses and soft plastic like plastic film, crisp packets and pasta bags. These items are not currently collected kerbside and need to be taken to specialist recycling points.
The second type of ‘wishcycling’ is trying to recycle packaging and containers that are made of the right material but are contaminated. Glass jars with food still in, half-empty shampoo bottles and cheese-stained pizza boxes are examples of contaminated ‘wishcycling’. Even if packaging is recyclable, if it has residue on it, the item often can’t be repurposed.
Gousto’s research found two thirds of Brits (65%) would like recycling in general to be made an easier process. The UK Government is currently considering an overhaul of the recycling system, with details likely to be announced later this summer.
Hugh Lewis, Head of Sustainability at Gousto commented: “At Gousto, we see it as our job to help make the recycling process as easy for our customers as possible – especially as a B Corp. That’s why we’ve been committed to updating our packaging design over the past two years, so that all recycling guidance is clear and visible for our customers.
“Wishcycling leads to millions of unsuitable items being put into recycling and we want to help stop this. It’s all part of our commitment to make all of our packaging recyclable by 2025.”