You’ve probably heard about the five Rs: refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose and recycle. These are actions we can all take to reduce our impact, and while recycling is last on the list, it’s a way better option than our rubbish ending up in landfills.
In an ideal world, we would exist in an entirely circular economy where nothing we create or consume goes to waste. Since this pristine dream is not our reality, TerraCycle has created innovative recycling solutions to help mitigate the harm caused by waste in our environment. By advocating for more sustainable consumption and helping companies make their products reusable or locally recyclable, we’re working toward a waste-free future.
To achieve this goal, we need to stop seeing disposability as a convenience. This starts by recognising the big problems with landfilling. Here are the big three:
- Every time we create a new product or material, we need to extract natural resources from the Earth
Energy is used to extract natural resources and turn them into new products. When we recycle something, we’re reusing that material, as opposed to extracting new materials from the Earth. When something goes directly to landfills or is incinerated, we waste all of the natural resources, energy and material that has been used to create it.
- Landfills are not designed to effectively decompose materials
When sent to landfills, rubbish is tightly compacted and then buried in the earth. The lack of oxygen and light means rubbish breaks down at a much slower rate – this is why compostable or biodegradable rubbish won’t biodegrade in a landfill. Estimates vary, but the World Wildlife Fund suggests a plastic bottle can take up to 450 years to decompose.
When these materials break down at a slower rate, they release methane, which is at least 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. This methane is a primary contributor to global warming and can be continually produced for however long it takes for the materials to decompose.
- As landfills break down, they produce ‘leachate’
This is a liquid that is then pumped out of landfills and treated as hazardous waste. However, many landfills leak leachate, which seeps into the ground and can flow into our waterways. Studies have found the presence of microplastics in leachate, which ultimately end up in the food and water we all consume.
Plus, did you know that recycling also saves energy? According to Stanford University, manufacturing the second time is much cleaner and less energy-intensive than the first. For example, manufacturing with recycled aluminium cans uses 95% less energy than creating the same amount of new aluminium.
In 2021 alone, TerraCycle prevented more than 6.5 million pieces of rubbish from ending up in landfills or incineration across Australia and New Zealand. Our certified and audited processes take that rubbish and convert it into a multitude of new uses, such as playgrounds, industrial pallets, composite decking, shopping baskets, even the podiums at the Tokyo Olympics!
So, the next time you’ve tried to refuse, reduce, reuse and repurpose, don’t hesitate to recycle. Check if the item is accepted by your municipal recycling service, and if it’s not, chances are you can recycle it through TerraCycle.