As we rack our brains thinking of the perfect gifts for our loved ones, there are certain categories of gifts that carry a timeless, waste-free characteristic to them such as art, experiences, and food. Some brands work with us on national recycling solutions to keep their packaging out of landfills and provide opportunities to raise funds for charity, so our brand partners are a great place to start for your holiday shopping list for gifts and gatherings.

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The more you recycle through many of our free recycling programs, the more points you can redeem for charity. Photo by Perry Grone on Unsplash.

Here at TerraCycle®, we have a mission of  Eliminating the Idea of Waste®. This mission actually falls in the category of more of a vision statement, a “BHAG” if you will; a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. 

There are countless ways to advance and support this notion of there being no such thing as trash, just misplaced resources. One is to vote for a future where garbage is obsolete by investing in a Zero Waste Box™ for yourself, and as a gift for others!

The Zero Waste Box system is the comprehensive, simplified recycling solution for nearly all materials that are considered “hard-to-recycle” in the public system (which is almost everything, nowadays). It’s a convenient and easy way to ensure that the products and packaging you use in your day-to-day life have an alternative destination than the landfill or incinerator.

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Zero Waste Boxes are an easy-to-use gift for friends & family members who want to recycle everything. Photo by Perry Grone on Unsplash.

One of the most common materials that are littered, landfilled, and blowing around city streets every day are flexible plastics, which can include a number of common things, such as food or snack wrappers, plastic shopping bags…the list goes on. 

Our Plastic Packaging – Zero Waste Box™ (or “ZWB” as we like to call them) is a kind of life preserver in the abyss of these unavoidable, persistent stretchy plastics. It’s an all-star in a lineup of next-level Recycling 2.0. You can select from 3 different size ZWBs so that you can right-fit the collection bin to the space that you’re looking to place it in.

By investing in a circular solution for products and packaging at the end of their use, you are voting for a future where the linear model of take, make, waste has been shed, and the supply chains for the goods we produce and consume are circular, closed loops.

Virtuous cycles: take, make, regenerate

In addition to taking responsibility for our impacts by recycling, it’s critical we tell the companies we choose and support that we want alternatives to non-recyclability. Start a conversation with the businesses producing typically non-recyclable products or packaging, forcing you to send materials to the landfill. 

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Everything we buy is a vote for recyclability, or non-recyclability. How many products and packaging have you purchased this season? Photo by Heidi Fin on Unsplash

As a customer (individually, and at the business or institutional level), you have amazing leverage to give feedback on the ways that you’d like to see brands innovate to match your values. Whether that’s through setting up a free National Recycling Program with us, or by changing their packaging altogether (check out our latest initiative, Loop, for more on how that can be done), businesses can do much better for their customers, and in a number of ways.

From the end-user, consumer perspective, so many aspects of an eco-friendly life can seem out of our control. From where the energy to run our technology, transportation, and appliances comes from, all the way to the source and treatment of life-supporting water, these complex systems seem to extend far outside of our ability to influence, affect, or impact. 

However, the items we own, buy, and eventually discard are literally in our hands. We have the unique ability to choose and decide to produce less in the first place, and responsibly purchase, discard, and inject the rest into a virtuous system, rather than a vicious cycle of buying things only to have them eventually be thrown away.

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Is it made ethically? Can it be repurposed? Will the person actually use it? These are all questions to ask when shopping for yourself and others. Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

Yet make no mistake—no one has it all figured out. The world of sustainability can be confusing, let alone knowing how to be recycling perfectly. The accepted items in municipal programs keep changing and vary location by location, making recycling correctly a moving target.  

I often like to say that we’re all bozos on the bus when it comes to sustainability in a modern context. If some “expert” had it all figured out, then we would’ve climbed “Mount Sustainability” already. Though we’ve got a long way to go, we can at least try and start taking steps forward.

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Every gift is an opportunity to give greener and move the needle. Photo by Mel Poole on Unsplash

We can all be striving to do better, working towards continuous improvement. As we gather together during this holiday season, may we all hold a place for gratitude over taking things for granted, presence over stuff, and the beauty in the interplay between giving and receiving.

“Remember – the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.” – H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Posted by:Lisa Pellegrino

Lisa Pellegrino is a self-professed "zero waste geek". She takes great pride (and joy!) in transforming waste streams into supply chains, through fulfilling TerraCycle's mission in eliminating the idea of waste. She got her MBA in Sustainable Systems and is the Strategic Partnerships Manager focused on consumer engagement and building up TerraCycle's public collection network for hard-to-recycle materials. Lisa enjoys collaborating with others to shift the mental model from seeing how there's no such thing as trash, just misplaced resources. When she's not working in the world of waste elimination she plays drums for the New York City band the Brass Queens, and enjoys deepening her Quaker faith & practice.

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