How to recycle with TerraCycle: the beginner’s guide!

How we recycle: Collect - Recycle - Transform

Interested in joining our community of recyclers but not sure where to start? You’ve come to the right place. In this blog, you’ll find a short-but-comprehensive guide to recycling with TerraCycle. Let’s go!

What is TerraCycle?

We are the most innovative waste management company on earth. For over 20 years, we’ve been inventing new ways to recycle and reuse rubbish. We’re different from traditional waste management companies because we focus on recycling the “unrecyclable”: items that you can’t recycle locally, including toothbrushes, toys, mascara wands, and much more. Learn more about TerraCycle.

What does TerraCycle do?

Our mission is to eliminate the idea of waste. We offer a range of solutions, including:

  • Free recycling programmes, which are sponsored by brands so that you pay nothing to participate.
  • Zero Waste Boxes, which are available for purchase to recycle almost any type of rubbish.
  • Loop, a new way to shop, waste-free; get the products you love in reusable packaging.

In addition, we partner with organisations to help them recycle on a large scale, integrate recycled content into their products, shift to reusable packaging, and much more. 

How do the free recycling programmes work?

Are free recycling programmes really free? Absolutely! They are sponsored by brands, manufacturers, and retailers, who cover the cost of shipping and recycling. 

To get started, simply sign up for a TerraCycle account and then explore our free recycling programs. Choose the ones you’d like to participate in and click the button to join the programme. Next:

  1. Reuse any box you have to start collecting for a programme.
  1. As your box fills up, sign in to your TerraCycle account to download and print a prepaid shipping label.
  1. Seal your box, affix the prepaid shipping label, and send it back to us for recycling.

For certain programmes, you have another option for getting your rubbish to us: public drop-off points. Find more info under “What are TerraCycle public drop-off points?”.

How do I join a free recycling programme?

Once you have created your TerraCycle account and are logged in, visit the web page of a program you would like to join. Click the button to join the programme. You can join as many free recycling programmes as you’d like! 

Who can participate in TerraCycle programmes?

Anyone can join our free recycling programmes! 

What free recycling programmes does TerraCycle offer in the UK?

You can find the full list of TerraCycle free recycling programmes here

Please note that some programmes have a limited number of spots, so you may be placed on a waitlist if a programme is full. Or, you may be able to find a TerraCycle public drop-off point near you for the programme. 

What can I send in through TerraCycle’s free recycling programmes?

You can send in the items accepted for each specific programme that you join. For instance, one beauty brand may sponsor a programme for us to recycle their own beauty product packaging only, while another might accept packaging from other brands as well. The web page for the programme will detail exactly what you can send to TerraCycle to be recycled through that programme. 

What are TerraCycle public drop-off points?

You can participate in our free recycling programmes by joining a programme and sending in your products and/or packaging using a prepaid label, as described above, or you can use a public drop-off point

A public drop-off point is a community hub where you can drop off your recycling. It’s simple: find a drop-off point near you and drop off accepted items. No account or shipping is needed. The volunteer administrator of the public drop-off point will send the recycling to TerraCycle using a prepaid label. Look for a drop-off point map on the web page of the free recycling programme that accepts rubbish you’d like to send to TerraCycle. Search your address on the map to see if there is a drop-off point near you. 

How do I recycle rubbish not accepted by free recycling programs?

Items like cardboard packaging, #1 and #2 plastics, and aluminium cans are typically collected by your municipal recycling service. Check with your local recycling service to see what types of waste they accept.

For items not accepted locally or through our free recycling programs, purchase a Zero Waste Box™. With Zero Waste Boxes, you can #RecycleEverything!

Do I get rewarded for recycling through TerraCycle?

You can earn recycling rewards ‘TerraCycle points’ for sending us your rubbish! For sending in shipments through participating free recycling programmes, you automatically accrue TerraCycle points. The more you send in, the more points you can earn. Redeem them for donations to your favourite school, non-profit, or charity. Each point is equivalent to £0.01.

What happens to the items received by TerraCycle?

When we receive your shipment at one of our Material Recovery Facilities, we scan it to register the shipment information, date, weight, and type of material inside. 

The contents of the shipment are first manually sorted into broad product categories (flexible plastic, coffee capsules, toothbrushes, etc.) We then sort mechanically based on material composition and characteristics, using a wide variety of sorting technologies, including size separation, sink/float, optical, air density, gravity, magnetic, and more, to route material downstream for proper processing and handling. 

Once sorted by category, the different material types are cleaned and then sent to third-party partners to process the materials into raw material that is used to make new products, like park benches, flooring tiles, garden beds, and more.

Watch this video showing what happens to the waste when it is received at the Material Recycling Facility and shows various waste streams going through a number of recycling processes. 

Still have questions? Visit our online Help Center to find answers to dozens of questions or connect directly with a customer service representative. 

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