What happens to your waste when it’s sent to TerraCycle?

We love that our eco-conscious collectors go that extra mile to ensure their waste, which would typically go to landfill, can be recycled through us. 

This week, we wanted to answer a few of the most common questions we receive around what happens to waste that is sent to TerraCycle to be recycled.

How does TerraCycle recycle so many different waste streams?

As experts in hard-to-recycle waste, we deal with hundreds of complex waste streams that require our in-house scientists and material application specialists to analyse the materials and determine the right way to recycle them. 

Before we even launch a recycling program, each waste stream is rigorously assessed by our team to ensure it ticks all of the following boxes: 

  • What are the local, national and regional regulations?
  • Is it technically recyclable and what it can be turned into?
  • Do we have the supply chain capabilities to recycle these materials?

Where does waste sent to TerraCycle go for processing?

In each country, shipments of waste are sent to the closest TerraCycle Material Recovery Facility (MRF), which is usually in the same country. When a shipment arrives at a dedicated TerraCycle MRF, it is checked in, weighed, and visually inspected for contamination.

How does TerraCycle sort so many complex waste streams?

We sort materials based on material characteristics and composition. For instance, if a material is made from glass and plastic, we’ll separate these two different material types. We then aggregate similar materials – all the glass together, and of the plastic together – to reach minimum volume thresholds for further processing.

We have technologies to sort all of these complex materials from manual sortation, size separation, sink/float, optical, air density, gravity, magnetic, and more.

How is waste processed?

First, we clean all of the different sorted materials, which are then sent to third-party processing partners that recycle the materials into usable forms.

Each material requires a different recycling process, for example:

  • Metals and aluminium are shredded and smelted into metal sheeting, ingots, or bar stock. 
  • Glass is crushed and melted to be used in new glass bottles (if clear) or brick, cement or concrete applications (if coloured). 
  • Rubber is generally cryo-milled to freeze, then size-reduced into a powdered state for flooring applications. 
  • Organics are composted or used in industrial and commercial fertilisers.
  • Plastics are the largest category of material we collect through our programs. These materials are size-reduced (made smaller by being shredded or ground), then melted and reformatted into pellets, flakes, or a powder format. 

What is the recycled material made into?

Once all of the program-accepted waste is sent to TerraCycle to be processed, it is sold to manufacturing companies who produce end-products, completing the journey of recycling. These end products may include outdoor furniture and decking, plastic shipping pallets, watering cans, storage containers and bins, tubes for construction applications, flooring tiles, playground surface covers and athletic fields, and much more.

 If you’re interested in learning more, you can read about this on our website – here.

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