No matter how you slice it, we are all consumers, and sometimes as consumers, we don’t realize what it takes to get something recycled. Most days, we open the refrigerator and empty the contents of a plastic container or a juice pouch without much regard for what happens next. Some of us throw the material into the bin while others take the more responsible route and put the material into a recycling bin, but do we really know what happens after that?
Most people assume that your local recycling company hauls the material away and magically recycles it, but there is a lot of action that goes into recycling that juice pouch or cream cheese tub. There is a lot of planning and research, trial and error, different machinery and, of course, cost that goes into it. More often than not, all of the different materials that we collect in a recycling bin cannot all be handled at the same facility. There are different processing partners with different equipment who specialize in a certain type of material and can get it to a recyclable state.
It’s not always easy to find the right processing partners because you need a combination of willingness and capability. A great example is those sticky, wet, and smelly juice pouches that contain things like aluminum. Aside from having the proper equipment, recycling facilities have to be willing to shred or grind, wash and dry those difficult materials using that expensive equipment. The majority of processing facilities choose to stay away from the materials that TerraCycle deals with on a daily basis because they focus on clean postindustrial waste. For things like dirty juice pouches and chip bags, they feel that it is not worth the time, money and effort to tackle something new.
However, some processors find that these materials can be the proverbial diamond in the rough as long as the economics make sense – and that’s where TerraCycle is able to form longstanding partnerships. It takes time, patience, labor, and money to process the more difficult materials, but there can be a market for these materials after the due diligence has been completed. At that point, those initial challenges can turn into opportunities. It can take years to find an end of life solution for the more difficult materials we come across, but TerraCycle is committed to forging the way and making sure we are Eliminating the Idea of Waste.