When most people think about trash, they don’t usually consider what they are putting in their recycling bin as part of that category. However, the not-so-secret, secret about recycling is that much of what you are putting into the recycling ends up in the landfill.

“Not everything people put into the recycling can be recycled.” Neil Miller, Communications and Outreach Coordinator for the Allen County Department of Environmental Management (ACDEM) continued, “Residents often engage in wish-cycling (or hope-cycling), where they put things in the recycling that isn’t prepared properly or just can’t be recycled.”

With the wave of headlines and documentaries focused on problems like trash and plastics, residents feel the need to do something, so they try to recycle. But throughout that process, the recycling bin becomes the guilt-free black hole where residents put in just about anything to escape from the fact that they are creating trash, in hopes that “someone” will be able to use it to turn into something else. That someone in Allen County are the recycling sorters at Republic Services, and when it comes to plastics, unless it is numbers 1, 2 or 5, and pre-prepared empty clean and dry, it has a low chance of going anywhere but the landfill.

Miller says that recycling is not all gloom though, and there are many ways to effectively combat creating trash, but recycling should not be looked at as the savior of trash, and more like the last resort. “The reason that the motto, ‘Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.’ is in the order that is because we suggest residents should look at reducing the need for new things first, then look for ways to reuse that thing before trying to recycle it.”

As for whether recycling actually pays for itself, as was the promise when it was first introduced as a program over 40 years ago, it is still up for debate considering subsidies, grants and other technicalities. However, an important part throughout that history is that most residents now acknowledge that continuously creating trash without concern for the environment is a problem and that they need to do something about it.

To further assist this effort, the ACDEM recently released its biannual Waste Watcher Guide to help residents not only recycle more effectively, but to provide a resource of information for residents to learn how to leave less of an environmental footprint by reusing and composting. All residents of Allen County would have received the comprehensive 40+ page booklet in the mail sometime in April. If you didn’t receive it in the mail, you can find the same information and more at

With so much packaging and those convenient single-use items, it may feel like it’s an up-hill battle to begin to reduce and reuse, but as they say with everything, the more you do it, the better you get at it. With a little research, there are many success stories of families and entire communities that have sought a goal of a zero-waste lifestyle, and for good reason. If you need help with information about reducing, reusing, or recycling the ACDEM is a great resource. You can call them at 260-449-7878, find them on social media or email at

Alex Cornwell

Alex Cornwell

The Owner & Publisher of The Waynedale News. Alex is a community leader and founder of various organizations, events & improvement initiatives in the area. He is also the recipient of 2019's Allen County Vandeveer Impact Award and 2012's University of Saint Francis' Distinguished Young Alumni Award. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer