Why does it cost to recycle?

We often get asked, “why do your programs require brand sponsors?” Or, “why does the Zero Waste Box system cost money?”

These are great questions! That’s why we thought we’d clear up some of the most common queries we receive around the cost of recycling.

Firstly, we want to start by saying that everything can technically be recycled. It comes down to finding someone willing to pay for the processes that make this possible. Items that aren’t typically accepted in your kerbside recycling generally cost more to recycle than the value of the material you’re left with once it’s been processed.

Let’s consider the value journey of a kerbside recyclable item like a glass bottle versus hard-to-recycle rubbish like beauty empties.

Recycling costs differ between empty glass bottles on the left hand side of the image vs empty beauty products on the right side.

Kerbside recyclable items
When you use a glass bottle and put it in your recycling, it can be melted down and made into a new glass bottle. As a similar product made from a single material, the bottle holds most of its value.

Hard-to-recycle items
Beauty products frequently aren’t kerbside recyclable because they are made from complex materials.They could have a mixture of components such as mirrors, frosted glass, metal springs, pumps and different types of plastic. These products often need to be manually sorted, which is labour intensive and expensive. Plus, the material processing is more complex and requires advanced machinery. The end product is usually a lower-grade raw material which doesn’t retain the same value. 

Why are TerraCycle’s national recycling programs free?

Our national recycling programs in Australia and New Zealand are free for you to use but they cost money to run. Brands and retailers partner with us to fund these programs. While we’re always on the lookout for more sponsors, not every product or packaging can be recycled through brand-sponsored programs. Where no free program exists, you or your workplace or community have the power to recycle almost anything through TerraCycle by purchasing a Zero Waste Box and funding the whole process yourself.

Why are some TerraCycle programs waitlisted?

From time to time, our free programs reach capacity – most programs have a limit on the number of participants or the amount of waste accepted in line with the brand sponsor’s recycling budget. When program limits are reached, we ask that you remain patient while we work with the brand to make more spots available. We aren’t able to estimate how long it will take for you to be added, because the decision to admit more recyclers ultimately lies with the brand partner who sponsors the program.

When this happens you have a few options:

  1. Visit a TerraCycle public drop-off point to recycle – find your nearest drop-off point using our map.
  2. Sign up to become a public drop-off point yourself and collect and recycle rubbish for your community.
  3. See if there is an in-store TerraCycle recycling option for the type of rubbish you’re collecting.

TerraCycle’s free recycling programs come at no cost to consumers because the brands which sponsor them fund the cost of collecting and recycling the waste (minus the value of the resulting recycled materials). Brands aren’t obligated to offer recycling or other end-of-life solutions for their products and packages. Your feedback to brands is important, and letting them know that recycling solutions for the products you buy are important to you will go a long way to both launching and scaling these solutions.

Why does a TerraCycle Zero Waste Box cost money?

The Zero Waste Box system enables individuals, business and community groups to fund their own recycling – beyond what’s accepted by local recycling services or available through TerraCycle’s free programs.

The cost of recycling can be broken down into three main parts: transportation, processing and recycling. A typical kerbside recycling scheme is managed by local government, with costs incorporated into your rates. With the Zero Waste Box system, these costs are built into the purchase price.

Let’s break this down:

  • Transportation: Part of the cost of your Zero Waste Box goes toward the prepaid shipping label that comes with it, so you can send your products and packaging directly to us for recycling once you’ve filled the box.
  • Processing: Once we receive your Zero Waste Box, our warehouse team manually sorts your items by their material composition.
  • Recycling: The components are cleaned and transformed into raw materials that can be used to manufacture new products. 

While a Zero Waste Box has an upfront cost, it is far more than just a box. It is a way to recycle everything and keep your products and packaging out of landfills.

Read more TerraCycle FAQs to understand the details of our programs and support services. 

5 thoughts

  1. Hi I would love to do the disposable masks, do I have to pay each time for a new box ? and is it free postage to send a box back. Thanks Robby


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