What is TerraCycle?

TerraCycle was established in New Jersey, USA in 2001 as a for profit social enterprise. The name is derived from the Latin for Earth terra) and part of the word ‘recycle’.

Today it operates in 20 countries, with a turnover of $25 million. “Making money from rubbish” remains founder Tom Skazy’s motto.

How does TerraCycle work?

TerraCycle relies on locally based collection schemes and public drop off points, typically run by volunteers, which allow consumers to dispose of items that are generally harder to recycle. These schemes and the volunteers running them receive a modest payment from the company, which those involved normally donate to local charities, schools and community groups.

These items are thus diverted from landfill (or worse) and instead sent to specialist recycling centres that are either privately run or operated by local municipalities/authorities. 

TerraCycle makes money from partnerships with major brands and/or selling the recyclable materials on for future use.

A growing number of major brands worldwide have partnered with TerraCycle to fund and promote recycling schemes for harder to recycle products, ranging from yoghurt pots and crisp packets to cleaning products and contact lenses, snack wrappers and toothpaste tubes to coffee pods and air freshners.

What can be recycled?

For a list of items that can be recycled in your area and to find your nearest public drop off point, please click here.

Setting up a mini recycling station in your garage or elsewhere in your home is a great idea. Label old boxes and containers and when you’ve collected enough of a particular item take them to a public collection point. 

Also think about whether you can introduce something similar in your workplace – it may also save your employer money is a great corporate social responsibility exercise.

TerraCycle’s zero waste boxes, for at home or work, are another option. They allow you to dispose of your unsorted waste and “to recycle anything.” They aren’t inexpensive so at home you may want to consider sharing the cost with family, friends or neighbours. Click here for more information. 

Is it successful?

According to TerraCycle, over 202 million people currently support its recycling model, in 20 countries. And nearly 8,000,000,000 items have been collected and diverted from landfill, helping to raise $44 million for good causes.

The company explains: “By sending waste to TerraCycle you will avoid it ending up as litter, in a landfill or incineration facility. Instead, new materials and products will be made with your collected waste, reducing the need to extract new materials from the planet. This avoided impact is not small; for an average product over 90% of the environmental impact comes from extracting and refining the raw materials from which it is made.”

Criticisms

Some will argue that TerraCycle normalises and encourages recycling, therefore letting big brands off the hook by not challenging them to innovate and find more environmentally friendly solutions.

According to the company, “TerraCycle is working towards eliminating the Idea of Waste® by making the non-­recyclable, recyclable.”

Our view

We support a large TerraCycle Collection scheme, raising funds for local schools, and have created a recycling station in our garage at home. We’ve also led the way on implementing collections in our workplace.

We would suggest that TerraCycle helps to buy our planet a little more time, by diverting waste from landfill while giving big brands the time they claim they need to innovate and implement the significant changes in how they produce and package their products that most of us want to see. On that vote, I feel that Teracycle is an excellent shorter term option but that it shouldn’t not part of the longer term solution.

You can find us on Facebook by searching for Plastic Free Home or at http://www.facebook.com/plasticfreehomeuk.

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