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Reduce Waste and Upcycle with TerraCycle

By Asha Kreiling

While writing a previous article on green dental care, I found out about a great company called TerraCycle, which offers a program to accept “non-recyclable or hard to recycle waste,” such as toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes. After looking at the website , I decided TerraCycle deserved an article of its own!

Started by a young Princeton student, TerraCycle began as a small business that sold worm casting fertilizer in used soda bottles. TerraCycle started expanding its business by producing various products out of post-consumer waste, such as pencil cases out of used CapriSun drink pouches. This process, called upcycling, involves producing new, useful products out of waste materials and useless products that otherwise would go to the landfill. So, upcycling helps reduce landfill waste and reduces resource use. TerraCycle quickly grew into a global project with over 20 countries now participating in their upcycling efforts.

TerraCycle collects non-recyclable or hard-to-recycle waste from anyone who signs up for their programs, called “Brigades.” TerraCycle converts, or upcycles, the materials into new products, such as recycled park benches, backpacks, storage bins, and flower pots. These upcycled products can be purchased from the TerraCycle website or from stores, including Walmart and Whole Foods.

There are currently over 40 Brigades, from food packaging to office supplies to personal products. Some examples include writing instruments, Scotch tape, Solo cup, paired shoe, chip bag, and candy wrapper Brigades. Click here to see them all . I have been saving up my old writing instruments — dead pens, dry highlighters, empty mechanical pencils– for a TerraCycle Brigade, and it has amazed me how much waste I would be creating if I would just throw them all in the trash.

All you have to do to participate is sign up for a Brigade program on the TerraCycle website.  Once you have chosen a Brigade to participate in, you collect enough materials to fill up a box or bag, print out a pre-paid shipping label (covered by the program), and ship it away to TerraCycle. Participating in a TerraCycle Brigade is completely free.

TerraCycle is an excellent example of a green organization working to reduce waste and creating useful items out of what would have been trash sitting in landfills. Participating in a Brigade can be a family effort, but why not get neighbors, friends, and co-workers involved, too! Check it out.

About Asha Kreiling

Asha Kerilling wrote for Green-Mom.com in 2012 and 2013. She is now working in environmental policy analysis and implementation in US cities.

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