Wishcycling: Are you doing your recycling wrong?

Overflowing litter bin. Credit: PA

Households will be urged to cut down on the amount of rubbish they put in their recycling bins under new government waste plans.

In the hopes of cracking down on 'wishcycling' - where people incorrectly recycle items such as crisp packets, and toothpaste tubes causing legitimate recycling to be thrown away - the government is overhauling how recycling is done.

It is expected that separate bins for households to collect glass, metal, cardboard and food waste will be brought into use - and that local councils will decide which items can be collected for recycling in each area.

Around a fifth of items placed in recycling bins end up being wishcycled and risk being placed in landfill, according to waste management company Biffa.

Some of the most commonly 'wishcycled' items are:

  • Crisp packets

  • Juice cartons

  • Dirty takeaway boxes

  • Soft plastic bags

  • Wet cardboard

  • Toothpaste tubes

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) started a consultation more than two years ago to simplify the rules on recycling.

A Defra spokesman said: “We want to make waste and recycling collections simpler and more convenient for homeowners, including by preventing food waste from contaminating recyclable materials.

“This forms part of our drive to increase recycling rates, reducing the impact on our environment and contributing to our net zero ambitions.

“We have held a public consultation on the proposed changes and will announce further details shortly.”

Full details of the guidance are expected to be published later this summer with the i reporting that ministers are keen to work with manufacturers on updating the guidelines for packaging.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has called for clearer advice on compostable and biodegradable plastic, which has increased in popularity but cannot be recycled alongside other plastics.

Councils could be required to collect paper and cardboard, plastics, metal cans and glass bottles and jars with separate collection – and at least two recycling bins – for food and garden waste separately.

The LGA has called for extra funding to manage the new rules.

A spokesman told the i: “Every neighbourhood is different and councils need flexibility in how they meet these ambitions in communities. What works for a rural village, for example, will not be the same for a tower block.

“Longer term, we look forward to working with government, packaging producers, the waste industry and communities in reducing waste and safeguarding our environment.”

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