Zero Waste Challenge

Zero Waste Challenge – A Beginner’s Guide to Wish Cycling – Week 10 Update


You can view all of the zero waste challenge updates here.


ICYMI: I wanted to point out the post I shared last week which goes over 10 simple and useful tips for a zero waste Thanksgiving since can you believe it, Thanksgiving is next week!


Here are our weigh-in results from last week:



  • For the second week in a row, we only went through one garbage bag in our kitchen. This has never happened since we have been living in our house  (over two years now). We were taking the kitchen trash out at least twice a week.


  • For the second week in a row, we just barely filled half of our large outdoor garbage bin. If we keep up with this trend, we should be able to call our trash company and ask for a small bin which will save us some money each month!


  • We have resorted to only needing a 16-ounce yogurt container for bathroom trash. The rest of the waste is compostable!


  • We (by ‘we’ I mean my husband) built the compost bin!As I talked about in this post, the bin we received didn’t come with instructions, nor all of the parts. Then the weather got cold, life happened, you get it. However, we have been saving our food waste for 2-3 weeks now, so it was great to get that out of the fridge/freezer and into the bin. We also have a ton of leaves in our front yard (three large trees worth) so it was exciting to be able to finally add some to the bin.


zero waste, compost



  • One of our waste reduction ‘goals’ was to reduce the amount of food packaging we bring into the house. Much of our packaging waste comes from convenience snack foods such as applesauce pouches and cheese sticks. However, we have really tried to make a conscious effort to find alternatives. And truth be told, the alternatives also includes a slight change in routine. For example, we often eat a lot of these convenience ‘snacks’ for breakfast. It was easy to give little E an applesauce pouch, some cereal, a cheese stick, etc, while I was getting ready. But now our routine involves me getting his food prepared, and having him sit and eat the foods. It still is a quick and easy breakfast routine, it just looks different. Plus, less food found (in terms of spilling and crumbs) around the house which makes me happy, but our pets not so happy.



Wish Cycling


Have you ever heard of wish cycling? I hadn’t until my family started the zero waste challenge. But I knew as soon as I heard what it was we were extremely guilty of it. So, what is it?


Basically, wish cycling is when you’re staring at an item in your hand, then you look at the recycling bin, then back to the item in your hand, and you’re questioning whether or not said item is recyclable. Then, out of sheer hope, you toss it in the recycling because you figure might as well try, right?




If I could count up the number of times I did this, the number of items I tossed into recycling out of sheer hope that maybe it was recyclable, I KNOW that I would be embarrassed to tell you.  


So what is so wrong with it? Having non-recyclable items in with recyclable items can:


  • Produce more waste: Why is this? Because some recycling facilities have limited resources not allowing them to physically sort through recycling. If there are lots of non-recyclable items mixed with recyclable items, the whole batch, bag, or container could get tossed. Ouch.
  • Waste time and money: If a recycling facility is using a machine to sort out recycling, a non-recyclable item can get caught in the machine and cause the machine to malfunction or break. This costs time and resources to fix.


Photo credit: ElisaRiva @


When we met with our zero waste challenge advisor and she told us about wish cycling, we asked if we were in doubt, what to do. She recommended the following:

  • Check with your local recycling company, the city, etc to see if they have recycling guides. Many do. If there is an item you are unsure about, check the guide first before recycling. You can sometimes use a general source such as Google or Pinterest if you aren’t able to find your answer locally.
  • If in doubt and you don’t have access to any guides or reference materials, throw it out. Yes, it hurts, but it is better than the alternatives.


I remember after we found out about wish cycling and the consequences, we felt really bad and guilty. Remember how I implied we did this A LOT? If you are feeling something along those lines, don’t. Don’t feel guilty. Your intentions were good and you didn’t know any better. Just acknowledge what happened was in the past, and vow to move forward with this newfound knowledge! This is a judgment-free zone as we are all learning as we go.


Now that my family knows about wish cycling, we are certainly a lot more mindful of what we put in the recycling bin. That being said, we are often looking up items on our guide, because it can still be confusing as to what you can and can’t recycle. If you’re in the same boat, you’re not alone! I would just encourage you to keep going and learning.


Here are three articles about wish cycling if you’d like to learn more:

Watch out for Wish Cycling

Resolve to Stop Wish Cycling in the New Year

3 Big Reasons Wish-Cycling is Always a Bad Idea


This is a great resource that lists the top 10 ‘offenders’ that people recycle that shouldn’t be recycled in your general recycling bin!


Have you ever heard of wish cycling? Are you guilty of it like I was?

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6 Comments on "Zero Waste Challenge – A Beginner’s Guide to Wish Cycling – Week 10 Update"

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I’d love to get to this point but we’re still in decluttering/purging mode after 25 years of family life. Definitely plan to be a minimalist going forward!


This is so helpful. I had no idea I was a wish cycler until now. I’ve become lazy about wasting (I used to be all about zero waste) and this is great motivation!!


We live on a military base and when we first moved in we had recycling service weekly. Then about 6 months later they dropped recycling altogether. It sucks. My husband and I don’t have time to make a recycling run ourselves and we loved recycling.