TerraCycle’s mission is Eliminating the Idea of Waste®. Since our company was founded 20 years ago, we’ve been developing solutions to the waste crisis by offering national recycling, recycled content, and reuse platforms. When it comes to our recycling programs, we back up our mission with this promise: We guarantee to recycle all of the accepted waste sent to us through our free and paid recycling programs.

Here’s a look at our third-party accredited process:

How TerraCycle recycles

The majority of our trash is technically recyclable, but most municipal recycling companies only recycle waste they can make a profit on. We can recycle the hard-to-recycle because we work with brands, retailers, and other stakeholders who fund the recycling process.

That process starts with the in-house scientists and engineers on our research and development team. They develop ways to recycle hard-to-recycle items, like cigarette butts, mascara wands, coffee capsules, and much more. 

Once we have a process developed and validated for recycling a certain type of waste, we try to launch free or paid programs to bring the solutions to life. From these programs, we receive shipments of the waste at our TerraCycle Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs), where shipment information is recorded. We then send them to our third-party partners for processing. There, items are sorted, cleaned, and processed based on material type. The resulting raw material is sold to manufacturing companies who produce the end product and complete the recycling journey.

Click here for an in-depth explanation of our recycling process and here to watch a video of our recycling process for beauty waste.

Why do we partner with third-party processors?

We typically don’t own the facilities that process the materials we collect. Instead, we’ve built a large network of processing partners with the most advanced equipment to bring to life the methods our R&D team develops and validates. Working with third-party processors allows us to be nimble and flexible, as we consistently develop new ways to recycle a wide variety of materials (often requiring new capabilities and equipment). 

Our Operations team works with these partners to put in place our proprietary processes, and, in many cases, we make significant investments into equipment with our processors to recycle waste others can’t. (See how we recycle coffee capsules in this video.) Our Operations team frequently visits our third-party processors to make sure our processes are optimized and the output meets the requirements set by manufacturers who buy it to use in their production.

Third-party verification of our process

We strictly control the movement of materials through each part of the recycling process so we can track and confirm where materials were sent and for what purpose. This process is third-party audited in addition to being controlled by our internal Operations team. 

We’ve been laying the groundwork for third-party auditing since 2020. Bureau Veritas—a world leader in testing, inspection, and certification services—audited our collection and recycling supply chain for multiple high-value waste streams in North America against the Recycled Claim Standard (RCS). Through this process, we gained formal certification to the RCS for two primary waste streams in the US and one in France. Bureau Veritas also audited our total supply chain process for the US and verified that we can stand behind our recycling guarantee. In 2023, these supply-chain-wide audits are being expanded to all countries TerraCycle operates in.

Life Cycle Assesment

Our life cycle assessment (LCA) department is also continuously conducting comprehensive, third-party-reviewed LCAs that prove TerraCyle solutions benefit our planet. Our existing LCAs show that recycling via TerraCycle has roughly 45 percent less negative climate impact than landfilling or incinerating

What’s next?

We look forward to sharing more behind-the-scenes videos showing how we recycle different types of waste from start to finish. If you have any questions about our process or recycling guarantee or would like to learn more about our audits, we welcome you to send us a message. Thanks for being part of the TerraCycle community!

2 thoughts on “Defining recycling transparency

  1. Hey Terracycle, when are you going to open up the waitlist and accept my defective Brita container? I live in New York City and don’t have a garage to store this thing and its packaging forever.

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