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What is wish-cycling and why is it particularly topical around the holiday season? Tineasha Brenot, an ambassador with Ocean Wise’s national youth service initiative Ocean Bridge, explains in the article below.

On Christmas morning, the stockings are bursting with seasonal goodies while perfectly wrapped presents are tucked neatly under the tree. Families are delighted by the sights of their names carefully adorned onto gift tags and the faces of children who have torn open their presents to see what secrets are hiding beneath the layers wrapping paper and ribbons. The post-Christmas clean-up begins by shoving the mountains of wrapping paper into a bag or box and tossing it into the recycling bin. Sound familiar?

Canadians generate an estimated 540,000 tons of wrapping paper and gift bags during the holiday season and a 25% increase in household waste. Instead of tossing everything in the trash, many people place these items in recycling bins in hopes of properly diverting their waste to a recycling facility. This phenomenon illustrates a perfect example of wish-cycling. 

Wish-cycling is a term that was was coined to describe the behaviour of putting non-recyclables into a blue bin with the hope that it will be recycled. Though it may feel good to think these items are being recycled and properly diverted from a landfill, this habit can cause for additional waste and materials to be sent to landfills. When too many non-recyclables are collected with recyclable items, it becomes challenging to sort and separate materials into their proper waste stream like glass, aluminum and different types of plastic. If collected materials are deemed to have too much contamination, that is – items that are unable to be sorted into a recycling stream, the entire batch is sent to landfill.

To avoid making this wasteful Holiday wish, here are a few tips:

  • Take the time to learn what materials can be accepted in your local recycling collection. 
  • Many types of wrapping paper and gift bags that have glitter, foil or shine are unable to be recycled and should be properly added to your household garbage.
  • Remove all tape and décor from recyclable wrapping paper prior to adding to your local recycling program.
  • Wrap gifts with recyclable wrapping paper (kraft paper is 100% recyclable), or something reusable like a scarf or blanket.

Check out the video below by my fellow Ocean Bridge 2020 ambassador, Courtney Formosa, for more sustainable gift-wrapping ideas.

Happy and safe holidays to all!

Tineasha Brenot is an Ocean Bridge ambassador who grew up along the St. Lawrence River in Brockville, Ontario. She graduated from Trent University with a BSc in biology before moving to Ottawa to complete a graduate certificate in geographic information systems (GIS). She has since worked monitoring at-risk reptiles, creating educational programs targeting plastic pollution, managed invasive species, and developed stewardship guides as a way to interact with landowners. 

What is Ocean Bridge?
Ocean Bridge brings together young Canadians with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences who are passionate about making a difference in their communities through the lens of oceans and waterway conservation. These Ocean Bridge Ambassadors from all across Canada work together, receive funding and learn from experts in marine conservation and education through an online platform and in-person learning journeys to develop service projects related to ocean health and ocean literacy in communities across the country. Ocean Bridge is an Ocean Wise initiative funded by the Canada Service Corps through the Government of Canada.

Canada Service Corps
Canada Service Corps is designed to generate a culture of service among young Canadians; concrete results for communities; personal growth through participation in a diverse team of peers; and lasting impacts on participants. Visit to learn more and how to get involved in the way that works best for you.

Posted December 24, 2020 by Ocean Wise

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