You’ve seen the news: “Is recycling worth it?” “Only 6% of all plastic is recycled.” “Recycling doesn’t work.”

TerraCycle is not like your curbside recycler, and our work goes far beyond recycling to include solutions in recycled content and reuse. But we do have 20 years of industry expertise, so we’re here to answer some of your questions about the value of recycling. 

Tl;dr: Recycling alone won’t solve the waste crisis. But, it does play an important role in the circular economy.

Why don’t more things get recycled?

Typically, curbside recycling services only accept select items. These most often include clean cardboard, glass bottles and jars, aluminum cans, and plastics #1 and #2. 

What makes something municipally recyclable depends on whether your local recycling company can make a profit recycling it. If the cost of collecting and processing the waste is lower than the value of the resulting raw material, it will likely be locally recyclable. If the costs are higher, then it likely won’t be.

The good news is that most trash is technically recyclable

We can recycle the hard-to-recycle (items not typically accepted by your curbside recycling program) because we work with brands, retailers, and other stakeholders who fund the recycling process. You can #RecycleEverything with us, including snack packaging, cigarette butts, makeup empties, and so much more. Learn more about our recycling process and solutions

Do the things I put in my blue bin really get recycled?

Many things do make it from your blue bin to a recycling facility and get processed into raw material. (What can be recycled in your area? Check with your local recycling service for more information!)

One major reason why items you throw into recycling might not actually be recycled is “wishcycling.” This is when something is thrown into the bin because someone hopes it’s recyclable, but they’re not sure. Unaccepted items can decrease the efficiency of processing, damage recycling equipment, or even contaminate an entire batch of recyclable material—causing it to be trashed.

At TerraCycle, we guarantee that we recycle all of the accepted waste sent to us through our free and paid recycling programs. Learn about the third-party audit of our recycling process by Bureau Veritas

Does recycling really help the planet?

There’s a reason why “reduce” and “reuse” come before “recycle.”

Recycling is an imperfect solution to the waste crisis, but it is still a major improvement over disposing of our waste in landfills or through incineration. Recycling’s main benefit is that it reduces the need to extract new materials from the planet. For many products, most of the negative environmental impact comes from extracting and refining the virgin material. 

So while recycling plays an important role in the circular economy, we must not rely on it alone. We all need to work to reduce our consumption, and we must call for businesses to make products from recycled content and completely redesign products to be reusable. 

How can I be a better recycler?

There are ways to be more confident in your recycling. 

  • Stop wishcycling

Become familiar with the exact items accepted by your curbside recycling service. If you ever have questions, contact your service instead of wishcycling an item. Then you can be a resource for your neighbors and community too. 

  • Recycle with TerraCycle

Your curbside recycling service is the best option for recycling commonly-recyclable items, like glass bottles and cardboard. For everything else, there’s TerraCycle. Take advantage of our free recycling programs, or purchase a Zero Waste Box to #RecycleEverything.

  • Buy less

Want to be truly confident that you’re not feeding the landfills? Buy less stuff! Can you do without that thing? Or reuse something you already have? Borrow it from a friend? When you truly need to buy something, try to opt for longer-lasting items. 

Remember: Every time you make a purchase, you’re voting with your dollars for the future you want to see. 

6 thoughts on “Does recycling even work?

  1. I totally agree with you. Since I started using Terracycle a couple of years ago (zero waste boxes) I find I am actually more conscious of what I buy and therefore recycle much less, even with Terracycle. And I keep some things to use again. I also have bought several things which you have made from recycled material. I have encouraged friends to use your services. Thank you for all you do.

  2. I did see that on the site, but I was wondering about foam take out containers and cups for example, Plastic tableware.

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