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How TerraCycle Helps The Environment

TerraCycle's Environmental Benefit

TerraCycle benefits our planet in a number of ways. We divert billions of pieces of garbage from our landfills and incinerators (both of these options produce added carbon and other greenhouse gases) and either upcycle or recycle the waste into new products, which reduces the need for new materials to be extracted from our planet.

See below a global map of where all of TerraCycle’s current collection points are. We encourage you to sign up and become a new collection point:

World map of TerraCycle's collection points

Quantifying the environmental benefit

There are two main areas where TerraCycle brings benefit to our planet. First by collecting and recycling/upcycling previously non-recyclable waste and second the benefit of the $1,649,472 paid to date by TerraCycle to charities around the world.

Graph of the carbon impact of TerraCycle products

When making a product, typically the largest contributing factor to carbon impact is the extraction of the raw materials from the earth and the refinement of those materials into a usable material. For example, when making a plastic trash can the primary carbon impact of that product is extracting petroleum from the earth and refining it into plastic. Or when making a cotton pencil case the primary impact is growing cotton plants and weaving that into a colored woven textile that can be sewn. When we make a pencil case from juice pouches (upcycling), we can replace the cotton with juice pouches (a material which is waste and hence doesn’t require new raw materials). Or when we make a trash can from chip bags (recycling) we can replace virgin plastic with chip bags. When you subtract the carbon impact of collecting the waste to begin with there is typically a major carbon savings.

The environmental benefit of Recycling:

In the case of a juice pouch, sending a juice pouch to a landfill creates just over 0.5g of carbon per pouch. If one were to incinerate the pouch and recover energy it creates just over 6g of carbon per pouch (including accounting for the energy made). If one recycles the pouch, for example into plastic lumber, then the carbon savings (not cost) are just over 13g of carbon per pouch (when comparing against virgin plastic).

The environmental benefit of Upcycling:

Extending the example above. If one were to upcycle the pouches, for example into a pencil case, then the carbon savings are around 190g of carbon per pouch (when comparing against a cotton pencil case).

*All carbon cost/savings numbers were independently determined via numerous LCA’s (Life Cycle Analysis) funded by TerraCycle. It is important to note that these numbers assume for global transportation to and from manufacturing facilities and the carbon cost of collecting the waste via TerraCycle’s national collection networks.

Soon TerraCycle will be implementing a program that allows you to contribute your earnings to specific charitable actions, ranging saving rainforest to giving clean water. Once the program is live you will be able to click back to this section on our website and see what specific actions have been taken, in aggregate, by all TerraCycle participants around the world.