What happens to your waste?
99% of the total material flow in the US becomes garbage within 6 months*. That's a lot of waste! For recyclables, many municipalities have the infrastructure to process and repurpose it. Non-recyclable materials are sent to either a landfill or incinerators.
How does TerraCycle fit in?
What is the impact of throwing away my garbage?
Garbage that is thrown out goes to a landfill or incinerator, where it will release carbon emissions that have a negative impact on the environment. Landfilled garbage also takes up limited space on the earth and produces other side effects like leaching toxins into the soil and groundwater.
Garbage that is recycled goes to a processing plant and is converted into new raw materials to make new products. This not only eliminates the negative effects of landfilling/incinerating it, but processing garbage into new raw material releases fewer emissions that producing new ("virgin") materials.
Why are some materials non-recyclable?
Technically, "non-recyclable" materials can be recycled. However, these materials must be collected, sorted and processes differently than what we consider traditionally recyclable materials, which are really just the most easily recyclable materials (glass, metal, paper and some plastic).
For example, plastics with either no plastic identifier number (like sandwich bags) or numbers 3-7 listed on them are not accepted at most recycling facilities since those facilities do not have the infrastructure to recycle them. These plastics sometimes have multiple layers of material or are a blend of different types of plastics that are hard to separate and therefore require different technologies that many municipalities do not have access to or the funds to acquire.