How TerraCycle recycles your rubbish into new products

The ultimate goal of recycling is to minimise the unsustainable use of virgin materials by processing discarded items to create new products.

Person watering a plant with a watering can made from recycled plastics.

Incorporating hard-to-recycle rubbish into municipal recycling services comes down to a business equation: if the cost of collecting and processing the waste is higher than the value of the resulting material, it likely won’t be recycled.

One aspect in this equation is colour. The recycled materials from a green plastic toy can’t be used to make a clear water bottle, because the plastic can’t be made clear again. Varied colours limit the market and thus make those materials less valuable. 

Recycling companies work to create cost-effective processing runs (usually requiring minimum volumes of rubbish in a given category) and seek out end markets for their recycled materials to improve profitability. It’s challenging, because many products are made of mixed materials, or opaque and colourful materials, which adds to processing costs.  

At TerraCycle, we can recycle the hard-to-recycle because we work with brands, retailers, and other stakeholders who fund the recycling process, and work to find end markets for the raw materials your hard-to-recycle rubbish is transformed into. We do this in three ways:

1) We find manufacturing companies who will use the raw materials to create new products.

2) We guide our brand partners to use raw materials from their recycling programs.

3) We create our own products out of the raw materials to sell directly to consumers.

Read on to discover some of the cool things created through these avenues.

How manufacturers use recycled raw materials in new products

Once you send your rubbish to TerraCycle for recycling, it follows a strictly monitored chain of custody before reaching manufacturers. Packages are checked in, assessed and sorted by material type, cleaned, and then processed into a format manufacturers can use to create new products. Explore how this process works when we recycle beauty waste.

Depending on the material and manufacturer, end products could include storage containers, plastic shipping pallets, piping for construction applications, flooring tiles, synthetic athletic fields, outdoor furniture and decking, and much more.

How our partners use raw materials from their own recycling programs

While we help our brand partners collect and process hard-to-recycle material, we also look for ways to help them transition away from single-use production processes, and recycled raw materials are an important part of this. 

For example, the beauty bar at the L’Occitane Green Store in Bondi, was made from beauty products collected through the L’Occitane Free Recycling Program. This was the first TerraCycle brand partner in Australia to incorporate material recycled through its program directly back into its production efforts. 

MECCA Australia also made use of the materials from its TerraCycle program to create in-store collection units from beauty waste and oral care – a truly circular initiative! 

Person dropping empty beauty products into a recycling collection bin at MECCA.

Global brand partners like P&G have also incorporated recycled materials collected through TerraCycle into product packaging. In 2017, TerraCycle partnered with Head & Shoulders to coordinate beach clean-up efforts around Europe and process the salvaged plastics into raw materials that were then used to produce their shampoo bottles. This project garnered global accolades, including an award from the United Nations. 

We’ll reach the pinnacle of the circular economy when waste is eliminated entirely from services and goods production. In the US, Canada, the UK, France and Japan, TerraCycle collaborates with brands to make their packaging reusable through our platform, Loop.

We’re working diligently to bring this innovative platform to Australia. You can register your interest here to be notified when Loop becomes available in your area.

Creating our own products out of recycled raw materials

TerraCycle operates in 21 countries, and innovation in international markets fosters opportunities like our TerraCycle Made product line. This is a collection of practical household items like watering cans, rubbish bins, plant pots, tote bags, and tech accessories made from rubbish collected and recycled through TerraCycle programs. TerraCycle Made products are currently available in the US, but stay tuned for local developments.

Raised vegetable garden made from recycled plastics with veggies growing inside.

You’ll also see TerraCycle and our brand partners collaborate on projects to put recycled materials to good use elsewhere. In 2021, we worked with BIG W to construct a playground with beams made from rubbish collected via TerraCycle, which was donated to a Western Sydney school. 

This year in partnership with BIC and Colgate, we’ll be delivering equipment to schools, including outdoor benches, garden beds, and whiteboards, all made using recycled materials collected through TerraCycle programs. 

We also love teaming up with local creatives to build bespoke recycled objects, like the Oysters are Forever project by designer Sophie Lanigan. Rubbish collected through TerraCycle has been used to create these pieces that shine a light on ocean plastic pollution while functioning as a soap dish, key tray, jewellery holder, or decorative tableware.

Black conch shell made of recycled materials.

Head to the TerraCycle website to see how you can recycle the unrecyclable and keep rubbish out of landfills.

One thought

  1. Absolutely LOVED this article and reading about the collaborations. I would love to see more articles about these kind of things happening in Australia. It so good to see progress happening and we need to see more of these articles and youtube videos to help inspire us all to keep going. Well done Terracycle Team 🙂


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