TRASH TALK On wish-cycling and wishful thinking.

TRASH TALK On wish-cycling and wishful thinking.

Issue 42

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Arts & Culture

  • Words Allyssia Alleyne
  • Photograph Vicki King

For as long as there have been government-sponsored recycling programs, there has been wish-cycling—if not the word itself, then the logistical nightmare it represents. Within the context of, say, throwing a potato chip bag into the recycling and trusting it will be properly processed (it won’t be), the term, coined in 2015 by recycling executive Bill Keegan, speaks to ignorance on the part of the consumer and exasperation on the part of the industry over poor sorting habits, contamination and inadequate infrastructures.

Wish-cycling (also known as aspirational recycling) is increasingly evoked in conversations about the plight of thrift shops, which regularly find themselves inundated with poor-quality items that cannot be sold on. Much like the potato chip bag in the recycling...

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