Why are some things recyclable and others aren’t? Great question!
Most likely, you can put cardboard, aluminum cans, a few types of plastic (#1 and #2), and glass containers in your municipal recycling bin.
Here’s why your local recycling service only accepts materials such as those: It’s a business! Recycling costs money, and someone has to foot the bill for logistics (collection, transport, handling, and storage of trash and processing (cleaning, shredding, and material conversion). If the cost for all of this is low enough that your recycling service can make a profit, they’ll accept the item. If it costs more to recycle an item than the processed material will sell for, they most likely won’t accept it.
Municipal recycling services play an important role in mitigating the amount of trash going to landfills, but over two billion tons of garbage are generated globally each year, and only about 13.5% gets recycled.1 Most of the items that get dumped or sent to landfills are not “unrecyclable.” They can, in fact, be recycled; someone just has to pay for it.
At TerraCycle, we can recycle the unrecyclable because we work with brands, retailers, and other stakeholders who are willing to fund the process of recycling hard-to-recycle items. This is known as “voluntary extended producer responsibility.”
This funding allows our Research & Development (R&D) team to find ways to recycle hundreds of complex waste streams by developing new processes and formulations and consulting with recycling facilities to fine-tune the process. Then, our Materials Solutions team finds the right recyclers to work with to process the material and, ultimately, applications for the recycled material.
So almost all of those items you currently have to put in the trash can instead of the recycling bin, you can send to us. We collect and recycle hundreds of different types of waste, from used chewing gum to cigarette butts to clothing to aerosol cans—and beyond.
There are a couple of ways you can recycle the unrecyclable with us:
- Free recycling programs, which are sponsored by brands so that you pay nothing to participate.
- Zero Waste Boxes, which are available for purchase to recycle almost any type of trash.
Plus, there’s a new way to shop, waste-free, through Loop! Visit exploreloop.com to search for stores near you offering your favorite products in reusable packaging.