Wish-Cycling – Top 4 Items to be Wish-Cycled

Pizza box Wish-cycling, the practice of tossing non-recyclable items into recycling bins in the hope they will be recycled, is a growing issue. Many people are unaware that certain items can contaminate the recycling stream, leading to bigger problems down the line. Here are the top 5 most common items that are mistakenly wish-cycled, based on insights from The Guardian’s article on recycling.

1. Coffee Cups

Why They Aren’t Recyclable:

Most coffee cups have a plastic lining that makes them waterproof, but this same lining also makes them difficult to recycle through standard processes. The paper and plastic layers need to be separated, which is not feasible in most recycling facilities.

What to Do Instead:

  • Use a reusable coffee cup.
  • Dispose of disposable coffee cups in general waste unless specified otherwise by local recycling guidelines.

2. Electronics and Batteries

Why They Aren’t Recyclable:

Electronics and batteries contain hazardous materials that can be harmful if not disposed of correctly. These items require special handling and should never be thrown in with regular recyclables.

What to Do Instead:

  • Take electronics to designated e-waste recycling centres.
  • Drop off batteries at specific collection points, often found in stores or local recycling centres.

3. Food-Contaminated Containers

Why They Aren’t Recyclable:

Containers contaminated with food residue, such as pizza boxes with grease stains or jars with leftover sauces, cannot be processed properly. The contamination can spoil entire batches of recyclables.

What to Do Instead:

  • Clean containers thoroughly before recycling.
  • Compost food-contaminated paper products when possible.

4. Clothing and Textiles

Of all the things we consume textile waste has the highest proportion of embodied carbon in it, per item. The fast fashion industry shows no signs of stopping. Every year in Ireland, we discard around 110,000 tonnes of textiles and nearly all of it is incinerated.

Across the world we need to do more to stop buying new and start supported second hand.

What to Do Instead:

  • Donate gently used clothing to charities.
  • Use clothes recycling bins available in many local areas.
  • Advertise used clothing on Adverts.ie / DoneDeal / Facebook Marketplace.
  • Know what goes in your bin


Understanding what can and cannot be recycled is crucial for effective waste management. By avoiding these common wish-cycled items, you can help ensure that recycling streams remain uncontaminated and efficient.

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