From Landfills to New Life: A Look at the Transformation of Waste

How TerraCycle Is Changing the Landscape

Reduce, reuse, recycle. We all know it and do it to the best of our ability, but we’re also still learning. For example, have you ever stared at a recycling bin wondering if that yogurt cup is really acceptable for that receptacle? Should you rinse it out first? And what’s the deal with shimmering or coated items, like chip bags? The bottom line is, not all plastic is created equal, which makes recycling more complicated and less gratifying at times. Although recyclables vary city by city, check out this simple list of recycling do’s and don’ts as a quick reminder.

What about the non-biodegradable offenders that linger in landfills for decades? The not-so-easy-to-recycle waste? Recently, we learned about TerraCycle and its mission to eliminate the idea of waste entirely and convert consumers to “durable over disposable” thinking, as seen in their newly piloted Loop System.

And it’s working. The Trenton, NJ, company now transforms one to five million kilos (2 million to 11 million pounds) of hard-to-recycle waste into renewed resources each week. They’re able to recycle things like cleaning products, beauty products, pens, cigarette butts, toothbrushes and even chip bags. But how exactly does TerraCycle manage to transform the landscape of landfills while making a profit?

Basically, the majority of TerraCycle’s revenue is provided by brands, manufacturers and retailers who partner with them to recycle industrial waste. These partnerships provide a platform for free recycling to consumers who use their goods.

Additionally, TerraCycle partners with waste management companies to identify potential resources that are traditionally considered too costly to recycle. Once collected, these materials can be integrated back into products. This video explains a little more about their incredible process.

So far, more than 202 million people in 21 countries have participated in TerraCycle’s renewable program. At no cost to the public, the program accepts waste to be reused, upcycled (like this backpack made from juice pouches or these coasters made from circuit boards), or recycled at multiple collection points.

Other materials TerraCycle uses to create new products

Terracyle is in the business of “recycling the non-recyclable.” Here are just a few of the items they are using to create new products:

Cigarette waste is shredded and separated into plastics, papers and organics for reusing in things like building materials.

Latex paints are separated into water and solids, which are then run through an extruder. The water is stripped from the materials as water vapor, and the solids are melted and formed into pellets, which can be used as a base for colorants or as additives to other recycled polymers.

Organics are used in industrial and commercial fertilizers.

Fibers are treated to separate out coatings (like wax and plastics). The separated fiber is recycled into new paper products or composted if recycling is not possible. The resulting plastics are recycled into plastic polymers.

E-waste is mechanically and manually separated into metals and plastics. Any salvageable e-waste is refurbished and re-used.

Cooking oils are consolidated and turned into biodiesel or mechanical lubricants.

comment_2We want to hear from you! What are your thoughts on using recycled materials in product manufacturing? Let us know in the comments below.

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