In an ideal world, TerraCycle would not exist. Our programs are a response to the environmental problem of trash that has been growing since the 1950s.
We believe there should be no such thing as waste. In fact, by advocating for less consumption and helping companies make their products reusable or locally recyclable, we’re working toward a future in which our recycling programs are no longer needed.
To make this happen, more people need to stop seeing disposability as a convenience. Here are some facts about landfills that you can share with your friends next time you see them choose single-use products or packaging that will wind up in the landfill when they’re finished:
- Landfills are not designed to break down and decompose materials. Waste is tightly compacted and then buried in the earth. The lack of oxygen and light means that the waste breaks down at a much slower rate. (This is why compostable or biodegradable trash won’t biodegrade in a landfill). It’s still unknown exactly how long it takes, but it’s estimated that a plastic bottle will take up to 450 years to decompose, whereas other items of plastics are predicted to break down over 1000 years. Because landfills break down at such a slow rate, they release methane, which is more than 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. This methane can be continually produced for however long it takes materials to decompose, which can be hundreds of years and is a primary contributor to global warming.
- Every time we create a new product or material, we need to extract natural resources from the earth. Energy is used not only to extract natural resources but also to turn them into a new product. When we recycle something, we’re reusing that material, as opposed to extracting new materials from the earth. When something goes directly to landfill, or is incinerated, we waste all of the natural resources, energy, and material that has been used to create it.
- As landfills break down, they produce “leachate,” which is a liquid that is then pumped out of landfills and treated as hazardous waste. However, many landfills leak leachate, which seeps into the ground and can flow into our waterways. Studies have found that leachate can contain microplastics, which ultimately end up in the food and water consumed by all living beings.
Plus, did you know that recycling also saves energy? According to Stanford University, manufacturing the second time is much cleaner and less energy-intensive than the first. For example, manufacturing with recycled aluminum cans uses 95 percent less energy than creating the same amount of new aluminum.
Encourage those around you to try to incorporate at least one of the Rs into their daily life, and when it comes time to “recycle,” encourage them to check if an item is accepted by their municipal recycling service. If it’s not, chances are they can recycle it through TerraCycle.
Your actions might help create a new habit and reduce the amount of garbage going to landfills.