What happens to the waste?

What happens to the waste is of course one of the most frequently asked questions within the TerraCycle community. From the conscientious brand partners who fund our programmes to our collectors it is top of mind for everyone involved. Our Material Solutions Team recently went to visit the UK warehouse and wanted to share more insight into what happens to the waste.

Make Everything Recyclable

In general, the items accepted in our household recycling bins are accepted because they are economical to recycle. In other words, the value of the material is greater than the cost to collect and process. TerraCycle, on the other hand, specialises in the traditionally ‘non-recyclable’ which are items that are more costly to collect and process than the value of the material at the end. Together with our inhouse R&D experts and brand partners, we make the non-recyclable recyclable by creating new supply chains to collect and process these items and closing the economic gap through sponsorship.

TerraCycle’s Supply Chains

All collected waste streams from all TerraCycle recycling platforms are first sent to TerraCycle warehouses. At the warehouses each shipment is received, scanned, weighed, and checked for non-compliant materials. The contents of each package are aggregated with similar materials and stored in preparation for processing. Each waste stream is stored until sufficient volumes are aggregated to justify a production run.

Warehouse UK
The waste is stored in our UK warehouse

TerraCycle works with strategic partners to process individual waste streams (by material composition) into a new format. Once a full truck load of material is aggregated it is baled and bulked ready to be transported to various processing partners who wash, shred, separate the materials accordingly.

End products

Because TerraCycle focus on typically ‘non-recyclable’ materials it means many of our waste streams are complex to recycle. Items may be complex to recycle because they are:

  • Awkward shapes, colour or sizes that separation machines can’t handle
  • Laminated multi-layered materials such as pouches which are difficult to separate the layers
  • Multicomponent products such as coffee pods or pens
  • Degraded from exposure to the element and difficult to collect such as beach plastics

To give an example, we collected deodorant aerosols with Right Guard UK whereby we separated the plastic cap and nozzle, from the aluminium can to create an outdoor gym.

Right Guard

One other type of outlet is to make recycled plastic lumber which has a variety of applications such as outdoor furniture, decking, fencing and plenty more.   

End materials


At TerraCycle, waste is viewed as a resource where materials are entering the circular economy rather than being disposed of. This is apparent throughout our supply chains and including the warehouses where materials are treated with care, and consideration in a clean and organised environment in anticipation for their new cycle of life!


If you have more questions about the way we process waste, please let us know, we would love to hear from you!


15 thoughts on “What happens to the waste?

  1. I work for the Waste Management team at Cornwall Council. Within Cornwall, we ensure that we have a clear line of sight from the point of collection to where an item is recycled into a new product, We have been asked to promote local TerraCycle collection points and allow some of the materials to be collected in our offices.
    While we always encourage residents to recycle as much as possible and applaud your scheme, I am concerned about the detail of where the material goes to be recycled. Clearly with the variety of materials that you collect, you must use a number of different companies. Can I please ask:
    How do you vet the companies that you use to ensure that they are working to high environmental standards?
    Do you publish an annual report of the amount of material that you collect and where it goes?
    Do you only use companies in the UK and Europe?
    Kind regards

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Esther, thanks for your comment. We have sent a response to your email address – it was quite long to fit into a comment! I hope this helps. Best wishes, Louise


      1. Hi Louise,

        I know this post is a year old but please can you advise if this information has been published or if possible l, publish it as it will help me make a case for using terracycle over other options.
        Kind Regards


      2. Hi Kayleigh, thanks for commenting. No problem, I have forwarded this information to your email address.


  2. Hi,
    I would also be really interested to have the information mentioned in the comments above, as we are building a case for terracycle collections locally in schools and this would be extremely helpful,
    many thnks


    1. Hello Liz,
      Thanks for your comment. I have sent you the email as well. Hope you find the information you need! 🙂


  3. Hello! Is there any way that I could receive the information above geared towards American programs? My company is currently launching a pilot program using the Zero Waste Separation boxes, as well as the cigarette recycling. We would like to know more in detail just how “zero-waste” Terracycle is and if they are working to high environmental standards. Thank you.


  4. Hi, can you tell me more details about where Terracycle waste ends up? It would be useful to have some specific detail on where the different ‘lines’ end up.
    Here in Suffolk, black bag waste is incinerated in order to generate electricity. It would be good to be able to say that Terracycle is the best route for all ‘unrecyclables’. But not if much of it is going to incinerators.


    1. Hello Garry, Thank you for your comment. 100% of the waste sent to TerraCycle is recycled. Nothing is going to incinerators! The goal of our National Recycling Programmes is to divert waste from incineration and landfilling. For more info, please watch this video: http://bit.ly/faq2_youtube


  5. Hi.
    in line with the comments above, I am really keen to know where the waste ends up as part of our Duty of Care process. As a large blue chip company, we have to have absolute clarity around where our waste goes, especially anything with logos. No waste will leave our sites without a full Duty of Care; however i have tried several times with TerraCycle to establish clear line of sight, but to no avail. This is a shame, because we can put quite a bit of business your way!
    If you could contact me directly to discuss this further that would be great.
    Thank you


  6. Hi,

    I would be really interested to receive the information that you emailed to the first few comments on this blog if that is possible?

    Many thanks.


    1. Hi George, thanks for commenting and my apologies for the late reply.
      No problem, I have forwarded this information to your email address.
      Best wishes, Claire


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