At TerraCycle, we’re on a mission to eliminate the idea of waste. That’s why we advocate for reuse and less consumption—and why we create recycling solutions for hard-to-recycle waste streams. We imagine a future where our recycling programs aren’t even needed. 

To work toward solving the waste crisis, we need to start seeing disposability as a problem, not a convenience. Did you know that only a small percentage of the waste we produce is recycled or composted, leaving the rest of it to end up in landfills and incinerators? These landfills are doing more damage than you may know: 

  1. The United States has over 3,000 active landfills and 10,000 closed landfills. Average landfills usually stretch over 600 acres, which is a lot of natural habitat taken away from local wildlife. Some species of birds even feed from landfills, ingesting things like plastic and aluminum. 
  1. As landfills break down they produce “leachate,” a liquid that accumulates contaminants that can be highly toxic. Without proper barriers beneath or around landfills, leachate can end up in surface and subsurface water. 
  1. Waste is tightly packed in landfills and is sealed under clay and rubber barriers. Landfills are really only designed to store waste, not break it down. Because the waste is packed together so tightly, it doesn’t receive a lot of oxygen, causing it to break down slower than it otherwise would. The lack of oxygen also creates bacteria that produce methane gas, a major contributor to global warming. 

If trash isn’t being recycled, composted, or sent to landfills it’s probably being incinerated—which isn’t a better option. No matter what is being burned, incineration creates harmful chemicals and pollutants like particulate matter, heavy metals, PFAS, and dioxins. These pollutants can get into the air, water, and our food supply. 

There are many benefits to recycling. It keeps trash out of landfills and incinerators, conserves natural resources like timber, water, and minerals, and saves energy. When you’re ready to get rid of an item, consider the difference that sustainable disposal can make. Recycling isn’t the only option either—donating, selling, upcycling, and composting are other great, sustainable ways to get rid of items you no longer use. 

Encouraging those around you to try to reduce, reuse, and recycle—even just one—can also help make a difference. If something can’t be recycled by your municipality’s recycling service, like chip bags, beauty products, and #6 plastics, you can recycle it through TerraCycle

It’s not too late to make a difference, but we all need to contribute: businesses, governments, organizations, and people like you. We must all do our part to keep trash out of landfills and incinerators.

2 thoughts on “Why is recycling better than sending trash to landfills and incinerators?

  1. Hi!
    It would be beneficial to show more videos about how the “hard to recycle items” are actually recycled. Items such as toothpaste tubes, contact lenses packaging, candy wrappers and single use flossers and so on. The videos you currently show are great but they’re very generic and only show how the most common materials are recycled.

    You say “zero waste” and everything gets recycled, but how? You are wanting us to blindly believe in your posts but personally I’m not convinced yet. So absolutely nothing gets thrown in the trash when you receive shipments?
    I would LOVE to buy several Zero Waste boxes but I personally need more reassurance that my money for these boxes is actually going to recycling these items.
    If you can provide more information on this, I would also gladly present it to my current employer. We are a large San Diego based company and I think they would love to partner up. I’m currently working on a proposal to eliminate plastic utensils and plastic to-go containers in our cafeteria.

    Thank you for your time.

    Best Regards,
    Jake McFayden

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