TerraCycle: Completely Rethinking Waste

TerraCycle Include USA Febreze ZWB
You’re probably well aware of the importance of recycling. But what can we do with the items that are deemed non-recyclable by our local council? What if there was a different way of dealing with waste destined for landfill? One that didn’t cost a penny? That’s exactly what TerraCycle has set out to do. With an innovative waste philosophy, they’re an extremely environmentally aware company. They partner with international household brands to create free and convenient recycling solutions.

Finding a Solution to Waste

TerraCycle’s founder, Tom Szaky, has an interesting perspective on what makes up ‘waste’. Born in Hungary, Szaky grew up in Canada. In 2001, whilst studying at Princeton University, he founded TerraCycle. Since then he’s been on a continued search for ways of reusing, recycling and upcyclingwaste. Nothing escapes his attention. Flip-flops, personal hygiene products, industrial waste and cigarette butts have all had the TerraCycle treatment. The company provides a circular and sustainable alternative to our current linear system of waste disposal. Their promise is that no waste they receive will be incinerated or sent to landfill. Instead, they turn waste into useful products. This includes melting plastic into something new and turning coffee grounds into compost. They’ve even decorated their company HQ with unwanted records.  

“Garbage Does Not Exist in Nature”

TerraCycle say there is no garbage, no rubbish bin or waste collection in the natural world. The waste from one creature is naturally converted into food or fertiliser for another and so the cycle continues. Humans have introduced man-made materials into our natural ecosystems. TerraCycle believe we’ve broken the natural circle and have thereby created the problems that threaten the globe today. The amount of waste we produce has increased drastically. With the rise of our throw-away society, we’ve simultaneously seen the rise of environmental issues. ‘Out of sight out of mind’ simply isn’t good enough. Landfill sites and incineration are responsible for the release of greenhouse gases. Let’s not forget either, the environmental impact of extracting and refining the raw materials needed to make the stuff we buy over and over. Not to mention the vast amounts of plastic waste that pollutes the sea and feeds unsuspecting fish.

Eliminating the Concept of Waste

TerraCycle argues that recycling rates are lower than they could be, because it’s cheaper to burn waste or bury it underground. There’s little incentive for manufacturers to encourage recycling. It’s certainly far less hassle for the average household to throw everything away in one bag too. But what if recycling was as cost-effective and convenient as incineration or landfill? Would we then be able to end waste once and for all? TerraCycle encourages the idea of borrowed packaging. This means that as consumers, we buy a product with a view that the packaging will be returned to the manufacturer and reused. Imagine packaging of all kinds being refilled, ready for the next customer, as standard. Plastic containers, spray bottles and aerosol cans, all being sent back to the manufacturer and reused. Crisp and biscuit wrappers being made into new materials and plastic bottles repurposed into something else. TerraCycle’s free recycling programmes turn otherwise non-recyclable items into recyclable ones. They even turn single-use disposable packaging into zero-waste containers!

Join the TerraCycle Recycling Brigade

TerraCycle offers a series of free recycling programmes aimed at individuals and communities. Each one is called a ‘brigade’. There are brigades for specific food brands, cleaning and personal hygiene products, and even pens. After signing up you can start collecting at home, or pool resources by collecting in your community or local school. Once you have enough, either post your waste to TerraCycle, take it to your local drop-off point or arrange a free UPS collection. You’ll earn charity points in exchange for returns. These points can be used to buy charity gifts or converted into cash to send to your chosen charity. TerraCycle UK has partnered with some major household brands. These include Garnier, Tassimo and Ella’s Kitchen. If you regularly consume products from these brands, saving up the packaging and sending it off for recycling is simple. There’s also a brigade for Febreze air fresheners, who knew these could be recycled too! McVitie’s, Carr’s, Jacobs and Go Ahead are also signed up. They’re part of The Cracker and Biscuit Wrapper Recycling Programme. This means cracker and non-savoury biscuit wrappers are responsibly recycled.  

Creating a Greener Workplace

Aside from free recycling programmes TerraCycle also offers recycling solutions for eco-conscious businesses.


These give businesses the opportunity to responsibly dispose of materials not covered by free recycling programmes. Buy a Zero Waste Box in the appropriate size and fill it with the specified waste. They offer boxes for a range of hard to recycle items. Cigarette butts, hair nets, disposable gloves, coffee bags and chewing gum can all be collected. Once your box is full, ship it to TerraCycle using their free postage. They’ll then do the hard part of separating the different materials.


TerraCycle also offer personalised recycling solutions for large-scale organisations. Depending on the value of the waste, TerraCycle buy leftover materials from companies. When waste is of low value or costly to recycle the advantage may be environmental rather than economic.

Collecting for a Greener Future

As hard as we try, reducing waste and ditching plastics completely is difficult. Many of us are reluctant to give up the convenience of single-use products. But TerraCycle is more than an idealistic dream. Getting on board could be the best thing we do to help reduce our environmental impact. TerraCycle is now a multinational company operating in over 20 countries. The team has received over 200 awards including from the Environmental Protection Agency and the UN. TerraCycle doesn’t preach about our love of convenience. Instead, they offer an alternative way of getting rid of waste. All without turning our daily routines upside down. There’s no need to do it alone either. Why not start collecting with your neighbours or at your children’s school? Or encourage your workplace to get involved? With free pick-up and postage, and the opportunity to help out a charity of your choice, the advantages of recycling with TerraCycle are clear!