TerraCycle’s collection models are different than traditional recyclers’. While your curbside recycling gets picked up, most TerraCycle recycling options involve shipping your waste to a central location to aggregate volume.
We always advocate that you recycle as much as you can curbside before recycling with TerraCycle. For your items that can’t be recycled locally, we’re a great alternative to sending your waste to landfills and incinerators. But you may wonder about the carbon footprint of shipping your trash to TerraCycle. Is shipping just as bad for the environment as throwing something in the trash?
We don’t just think our recycling options are better—we know it. That’s because we have an internal Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) department that conducts LCAs to measure the environmental benefits of our recycling programs against 7 to 10 impact categories, like global warming potential and human carcinogenic toxicity. Data-driven decision-making is central to how we operate, as recycling and reuse are not just about waste reduction but also about helping mitigate climate change.
In a third-party reviewed LCA of flexible film recycling in the US, we compared TerraCycle’s four unique models for collection and recycling to local disposal options (landfills and incinerators).
The analysis considered factors like the environmental costs of transporting waste to our check-in and sorting facilities, the production and transportation of collection boxes (for Zero Waste Boxes), and the sorting and recycling process.
The LCA calculated that TerraCycle’s recycling models outperform municipal waste management options in the US by an average of 45% across eight key impact categories.
We took into account the weight of shipments and the total distance a box travels to ensure the findings apply to a country as large as the US. Even increasing the distance a box traveled by three times still resulted in a 20 to 30% benefit over landfill and incineration options in any impact category. We also found that a 90% reduction in weight per shipment had less than a 5% impact on any category.
While you can use any box you have on hand to participate in our free recycling programs, we send a box to you when you purchase a Zero Waste Box™.
Our shipping meets carbon-neutral standards through our shipping partners and through third-party verification.
Our Zero Waste Boxes are made using SFI-certified paper, granted by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative by meeting sustainable procurement standards of forest products and forest management. After your filled box is sent back to us, we also recycle the plastic liner and cardboard box.
We’ve begun shipping Zero Waste Boxes in reusable cases. The Zero Waste Cases are made of durable 100% recycled PET. We’re experimenting with different versions of the case with the goal of delivering all Zero Waste Boxes in these reusable cases by the end of 2024.
No matter the method—curbside recycling or TerraCycle—recycling is always a more circular option than disposal. That’s because it reduces the need to extract virgin materials from the planet, prevents trash from being landfilled or littered, and reuses valuable material that would otherwise go to waste. Learn more about the environmental benefits of recycling.
Recycling does have a carbon footprint, but it is a significant improvement over disposing of our waste in landfills or through incineration. We always recommend reducing your consumption, reusing as much as you can, and then recycling locally before turning to TerraCycle’s recycling options. And when you’ve found yourself with something hard to recycle, you can rest assured that shipping your trash to us is still much better for the environment than the alternatives.
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