On Wishcycling

A deep-dive into the origins and various interpretations of the term “wishcycling” on the Discard Studies website (which sound like something a Don DeLillo character would write for, but I digress).

Initially, the term emerged from within the recycling and waste industry as a response to the influx of non-recyclables “contaminating” the recycling stream. In this sense, wishcycling is a charge levied against individuals and, as part of public education campaigns, intends to shift “poor” recycling habits. But increasingly, it is used as part of a structural critique by recyclers, one that shifts the focus onto infrastructure or the plastics industry, who have long promoted recycling as the primary solution to the mounting scale and complexity of contemporary waste. In this case, putting non-recyclables in the bin is likely an act carried out because it feels necessary, but also knowingly incommensurate with and potentially irrelevant to the problem of disposable plastics.

The Atlantic article she mentions this being research for is The World Has One Big Chance to Fix Plastics.

Via Andrew Curry’s equally enraging The rise and rise of the plastic bag which reminds us that there didn’t used to be quite so much of this shit in our lives and it didn’t happen by accident.

Plastics were, effectively a product of World War 2, produced for the war effort. By the 1960s, a Swedish company had patented the single stamp plastic bag. Food buying habits changed, which created a market for a range of plastic packaging. Consumers had to be trained not to kill themselves with plastic bags, and then to treat them as disposable.

Plenty of damning links there about the petrochemical industry’s lobying if you fancy getting really pissed off.

(Discard Studies / Just Two Things)