Why are some things recyclable and others aren’t?

Why are some things recyclable and others aren’t? Great question! 

Most likely, you can put cardboard, aluminium cans, a few types of plastic (#1 and #2), and glass containers in your municipal recycling bin. 

Here’s why your local recycling service only accepts materials such as those: it’s a business! Recycling costs money, and someone has to foot the bill for logistics (collection, transport, handling, and storage of rubbish, as well as processing – which involves cleaning, shredding, and material conversion). If the cost for all of this is low enough that your local recycling service can make a profit on the recycled material, they’ll accept the item. If it costs more to recycle an item than the processed material will sell for, they most likely won’t accept it. 

Municipal recycling services play an important role in mitigating the amount of trash going to landfills, but more than two billion tons of garbage is generated globally each year, and only about 13.5% gets recycled. Most of the items that get dumped or sent to landfills are not “unrecyclable.” They can, in fact, be recycled. Someone just has to pay for it.

At TerraCycle, we can recycle the unrecyclable because we work with brands, retailers, and other stakeholders who are willing to fund the process of recycling hard-to-recycle items. This is known as  “voluntary extended producer responsibility.”

This funding allows our Research & Development team to find ways to recycle hundreds of complex waste streams by developing new processes and formulations and consulting with recycling facilities to fine-tune the process. Then, our Materials Solutions team finds the right recyclers to work with to process the material and, ultimately, applications for the recycled material.

So, you can send us almost all of those items you currently have to put in the rubbish instead of the recycling bin. We collect and recycle hundreds of different types of waste, from used face masks to cigarette butts, clothing, razors, and beyond. 

You can recycle the unrecyclable with us by using our:

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