What happens to the waste is of course one of the most frequently asked questions within the TerraCycle community. From the conscientious brand partners who fund our programmes to our collectors it is top of mind for everyone involved. Our Material Solutions Team recently went to visit the UK warehouse and wanted to share more insight into what happens to the waste.
Make Everything Recyclable
In general, the items accepted in our household recycling bins are accepted because they are economical to recycle. In other words, the value of the material is greater than the cost to collect and process. TerraCycle, on the other hand, specialises in the traditionally ‘non-recyclable’ which are items that are more costly to collect and process than the value of the material at the end. Together with our inhouse R&D experts and brand partners, we make the non-recyclable recyclable by creating new supply chains to collect and process these items and closing the economic gap through sponsorship.
TerraCycle’s Supply Chains
All collected waste streams from all TerraCycle recycling platforms are first sent to TerraCycle warehouses. At the warehouses each shipment is received, scanned, weighed, and checked for non-compliant materials. The contents of each package are aggregated with similar materials and stored in preparation for processing. Each waste stream is stored until sufficient volumes are aggregated to justify a production run.
TerraCycle works with strategic partners to process individual waste streams (by material composition) into a new format. Once a full truck load of material is aggregated it is baled and bulked ready to be transported to various processing partners who wash, shred, separate the materials accordingly.
Because TerraCycle focus on typically ‘non-recyclable’ materials it means many of our waste streams are complex to recycle. Items may be complex to recycle because they are:
- Awkward shapes, colour or sizes that separation machines can’t handle
- Laminated multi-layered materials such as pouches which are difficult to separate the layers
- Multicomponent products such as coffee pods or pens
- Degraded from exposure to the element and difficult to collect such as beach plastics
To give an example, we collected deodorant aerosols with Right Guard UK whereby we separated the plastic cap and nozzle, from the aluminium can to create an outdoor gym.
One other type of outlet is to make recycled plastic lumber which has a variety of applications such as outdoor furniture, decking, fencing and plenty more.
At TerraCycle, waste is viewed as a resource where materials are entering the circular economy rather than being disposed of. This is apparent throughout our supply chains and including the warehouses where materials are treated with care, and consideration in a clean and organised environment in anticipation for their new cycle of life!
If you have more questions about the way we process waste, please let us know, we would love to hear from you!