10: Recycling vs. Wishcycling vs. Upcycling
Have you heard of these before? I'm sure you know what recycling is... so let's jump to the last two first. We'll come back to it though, because chances are (based on recycling contamination stats) you're doing it wrong!
Wishcycling is when you recycling things because you really ~think~ and want it to be recyclable. But here's the thing, it's a lot better to take a minute to look it up and actually recycling properly based on your municipalities' rules than to just throw it in the blue bin and hope everything works out. The reason why recycling barely ever - 9% to be exact - makes it to the point of actually getting recycled is because of contamination (aka people doing it wrong!). If you search your city's waste wizard, google it based on your city, call your city (311 in Toronto), search for Terracycle programs near you, and STILL can't figure out where it goes, I'm sorry to break it to you, but it's actually better to just throw it in the trash. And in the event that you don't have time to do this much research, it's also better to throw it in the trash. Ultimately if you throw your few items out that you're unsure of, you'll be saving an entire load from being trashed, and what can be recycled will actually get recycled.
Upcycling is when you find another use for waste instead of just throwing it in the blue bin or garbage. It's a fabulous option for creatives and non-creatives alike. If you can't find a way to repurpose something, chances are there's an artist near you who might be able to use it. Search your cities "zero-waste" group, post on Kijiji or Bunz, or poke around to some teachers you may know. Even making a generic post on these platforms along the lines of "various clean plastic waste for artists or teachers" and just hold onto the plastic waste you do accumulate over time, you'll surprise yourself with how many environmentally aware artists there are looking for strange materials (aka garbage) to work with.
Recycling is almost as confusing as it is important because the fact that only 9% of what you put in your blue bin gets recycled shows that we still have some confusion around the topic. Granted, the cities haven't made it particularly easy to follow their vague, convoluted rules. First thing's first: you need to CLEAN your recycling before throwing it in the blue bin. Dirty PB jars? Clean them. Oily take-out containers? If it's black plastic or styrofoam you can't recycle it in Toronto's municipal recycling (but check with your work/home landlord they may use a third-party that accepts it). For everything else - clean it! If it can't be cleaned, it goes in either organics (if it's paper-based and not coated with plastic) or it goes in the trash. If you're ever confused about this, I highly suggest you download the waste wizard app for your city. If you don't have an app, you can bookmark internet pages on your phone's homepage from your browser so it's as easy to access as an app, even though it's just a link to the webpage.