All the information you need from “TerraCycle Answers Your Questions”

Many of our longstanding collectors (you know who you are!) will be well aware that TerraCycle® has grown enormously in the last year or two, largely due to growing awareness surrounding the issue of single use plastics and pollution thanks to programmes such as Blue Planet II. The main contributing factor to TerraCycle®’s continued success however, has been you, the collectors.

As a thank you, and in order to answer some of your most frequently asked questions, we created a series of short videos titled “TerraCycle® Answers Your Questions”, featuring our resident Recycling Expert Stephen Clarke explaining what, how and why we do what we do.

Use these videos as handy resources that you can easily share with your networks to clear up any queries or encourage more people to drop off their hard-to-recycle waste to your public drop-off location. To accompany the videos we also wanted to write this blog post so that you can have all of the relevant information in writing, and so, without further ado, please find a break down of the questions asked in each video below…

1. What are the economics of waste?

Here at TerraCycle® HQ, we are regularly asked why certain waste streams cannot be accepted by local councils. As a general rule, councils across the UK will accept simple waste streams such as paper and cardboard, aluminium cans and tin cans, plastic bottles and certain rigid plastics. These are the materials that are considered “high value” as the end recycled product is worth more than the costs of transporting and processing the waste.

Councils do not want any materials that are costly to recycle. This includes things such as flexible packaging like crisp packets and biscuit wrappers, waste that is made up of multiple materials such as pens and toothpaste tubes, and anything else where the cost of recycling the waste outweighs the value of the end product.

This is where TerraCycle® comes to the rescue. TerraCycle® partners with your favourite brands to cover the costs of transporting, separating and recycling “hard-to-recycle waste” which means we can offer the solution as a free programme to collectors on our website.

As a member of a free programme you are able to download shipping labels which you can use to send your waste to us, and as an added thank you, the brand partners also offer a charitable donation for each shipment collectors send in. Without these brand partners we simply wouldn’t be able to make the economics work and would therefore be unable to offer a solution.

2. What happens to the waste you send for recycling?

Once all of your hard work sorting and packaging is complete and you’ve sent off a shipment, you may be wondering “what happens next?”. It’s a good question, and one that Recycling Genius Steve Clarke has the answer to.

Once the UPS driver collects your shipment of waste, its delivered to our partner SUEZ’s site in Darwen, Lancashire. The materials are then “baled” and stored together by waste stream until we have enough to send for recycling. Generally we need between 10-25 tonnes of each type of waste before the economics of processing it make sense. We use a number of processors across the UK and Europe depending on the process required to recycle a waste stream, and availability.

From snack packaging, to new lumber products!

Flexible plastic snack wrappers for example, are shredded, cleaned and converted into pellets which can then be supplied to manufacturers who mould them into new products. The products that can be produced depend on the material composition. The material can be moulded into lumber which can then be used to make benches, outdoor furniture and even playgrounds! More information about the processes for various materials can be found here and watch the full video here.

3. Why are changes made to the recycling programmes?

In recent months, you may have experienced some changes to the programmes you are signed up to. Changes can range from increases in the minimum shipment weight, the charitable points awarded per shipment, or in some cases, removal from a programme.

While we appreciate that these changes can be inconvenient, we assure you they are decisions that are not taken lightly, and they are made to ensure the efficiency and success of the free recycling programmes. But why are these changes made? Once again Recycling God Steve Clarke has the answers.

While TerraCycle® would love to be able to recycle absolutely everything, it is important to bear in mind that it is not possible unless you can make the economics work.

This is waste that was previously non-recyclable in the UK and which TerraCycle® has found a solution for by partnering with brands who provide us with the resources to launch a free programme.

With the resources provided, TerraCycle® is always striving to make the programmes as efficient as possible, enabling us to recycle more waste and giving more consumers access to the free recycling solutions. While we use existing and optimized shipping routes (UPS in the UK for example), larger shipments of a certain type of waste means fewer shipments, and therefore lower carbon footprints for the programmes. This is why the programmes’ minimum shipment sizes will invariably increase.

The Orchard Community Centre public drop-off location

The public access and community-based public drop-off locations also provide larger, more efficient and more environmentally friendly collections, which is why we always encourage collectors to use their nearest public drop-off location if there is one nearby, or to set one up themselves if there is not. Often when a programme launches, or even as it evolves and scales, we will look at a public collection only model as it makes more sense to have hundreds of publicly accessible locations sending large shipments, than thousands of private locations sending smaller, more frequent ones.

Currently there are more than 8,000 public drop-off locations across the UK and we are constantly working to build the network and fill in any gaps. Of course, we appreciate the frustrations of those collectors who are affected by these changes but rest assured that they are made so that we can make the programmes as big and as inclusive as we can.

We sincerely hope that you find these videos helpful. We are currently working on the next series, so do let us know if there is anything you’d like us to focus on. Comment below what would you like to see in the next edition of “TerraCycle® Answers Your Questions”?

20 thoughts on “All the information you need from “TerraCycle Answers Your Questions”

  1. I live in Wimborne Dorset and there are no drop off centres within 30 miles it seems. I have been collecting cat food pouches for several months – what can I do with them?!


    1. Hi Jane,
      We’re sorry about the inconvenience caused.
      ou can either get in touch with an existing public drop-off location and send them your pouches (at your own cost). Or wait until you get enough pouches, so you won’t travel all the way for a small amount.
      Best wishes, Claire


  2. Is there any prospect of resuming a petfood sack recycling point in Denbighshire or wider NE Wales, please? Thanks, Jean


    1. Hi Jean, my apologies for the late reply.
      Unfortunately, this programme is full at the moment and we cannot open more collection points. If this changes, we’ll advise it on our social media channels, so keep an eye ou.
      Best wishes, Claire


  3. How do we know that you are recycling these items and not sending them abroad to be a burden to another country and still a problem to the world as a whole? Do you do any work with manufactures to change production/ packaging methods and or materials to ensure less waste in the future?


    1. Hi Sandra, my apologies for the late reply.
      I can assure you that all the waste we collect is sent to our recycling facility, who transforms them back into raw material so they can be used in the making of new products, none of them is being sent to other countries.
      We indeed created Loop, the first online shopping platform providing your favourite products in reusable packaging: and we’re constantly working on improving our services towards our goal, Eliminating the Idea of Waste®.
      I hope this explanation helps.
      Best wishes, Claire


      1. You say that no waste is sent to other countries but your blog says’ We use a number of processors across the UK and Europe’. Surely it would be better to reduce plastic packaging used by manufacturers. One issue is pet food pouches – the food Purina sells in pouches here is in tins in the US. They didn’t answer when I asked why. Chocolate used to be wrapped in foil and paper so why not do that now?
        By constantly adding to waste streams you might actually be encouraging manufacturers to delay reviewing their packaging materials.


      2. Hi Lynn, my apologies for the late reply.
        In terms of processing, most of the waste we collect in the UK will be processed in the UK. TerraCycle operates in 12 European markets and tries wherever possible to recycle in the market the waste is collected in. Sometimes, however (particularly where we collect a waste stream like say pens or coffee pods in multiple markets) we might have a better processing option so it makes sense to recycle all of that material in one country. We can’t always disclose the names of the recycling partners for confidentiality reasons but in the UK we regularly use processors in the Midlands, Manchester and Wales areas.
        The majority of our brands have made pledges/commitments in terms of their products and packaging and often use our programmes as a solution whilst they research the products/packaging. A lot of these processes, although they seem simple, can take years before they’re implemented and our services provide a solution in the meantime.
        Hope this explanation helps,


  4. Can things be sent direct to Suez if there are no collection points I can get to? Or do I need to send it to a collector first? (seems a bit daft to send it somewhere for it to be forwarded on!)


    1. Hi Jackie, my apologies for the late reply.
      We’re sorry about the inconvenience caused but yes, you have to drop off your waste at an existing public drop-off location, who will then send it to us.
      Best wishes, Claire


  5. Terracycle’s work is wonderful! It’s also great that there are so many drop off points in Edinburgh. BUT they are so close together on the map, that I can’t bring up the address of any of them singly; so, though we, as a Church, collect only biscuit wrappers, we could send in more to other collections, but I can’t find the exact address of a collection point in Edinburgh for i. Crisp packets and ii. Stationery items.

    Please help! Is it possible to have a print-out of the collection points in Edinburgh?

    Susan Martin/Priestfield Church


    1. Hi Suan, my apologies for the late reply.
      Thank you for your kind words! It’s great that you get your church involved in recycling!
      You should be able to zoom in on the map to see each public drop-off location and click on them to see their details.
      If you haven’t found a solution yet, please try that. If this still doesn’t work, don’t hesitate to email our Customer Service Team at and they will be able to help you.
      I hope this helps.
      Best wishes, Claire


    1. Hi Diane, thanks for your question.
      We have free recycling programmes for different waste streams, which you can find on this page:
      For each programme, you’ll have an interactive map displaying the public drop-off collections points where you can take your waste.
      I hope this helps.
      Best wishes and happy holidays, Claire


  6. I’ve been carefully saving lots of items for Terracycle during the lockdown, but the places I normally drop them off with have put their collections on hold, for various reasons. One told me yesterday that they hadn’t been able to make contact with you. Please could you let me know the current situation? You may advise me to find other local places where I can drop off my things, but generally they are too far away, and I’m not prepared to send more CO2 into the atmosphere in order to make a special journey. Thank you.


    1. Hi Gillian, thanks for your question.
      Following the government guidelines, some public drop-off locations have indeed temporarily closed.
      At the moment, UPS is still operating, which means collectors can still send their waste to us. However, we advise you to be careful and store your waste if you can for the time being, until the public drop-off locations reopen, but we understand that not everybody can do it.
      Please check our COVID-19 Update page which is regularly updated:
      I hope this helps.
      Best wishes and happy holidays, Claire


  7. Hi Jan, my apologies for the late reply. Each programme page shows an interactive map to find your nearest public drop off location. Click on the programme you want to collect for and find your nearest public drop off location through the map of the programme. Here are all our active programmes: Hope this explanation helps, Nahia


  8. Why isn’t there a phone number to find out where there’s a drop of point, you’re website isn’t good at that information.
    My uncle lives in Eastbourne and there’s no info about a drop of point. You need to make it easier or a list on your front page.
    Not impressed with your set up.


    1. Hi Alan, thanks for you comment. We are always trying to improve our service.
      We offer a large variety of programmes for different waste streams and each public drop-off location accepts different types of waste, based on the programmes they are registered on. Each recycling programme is sponsored by a different brand, meaning they will not all work the same. You can always find your nearest public drop-off location by using the interactive maps on the programme pages. Click here to see all our free recycling programmes:
      If you have any other question, you can contact our Customer Support Team at or phone on 01465 915018 from 9am until 5pm, Monday to Thursday and 9am until 12pm on Fridays.


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