I just recently heard about Terra Cycle. I´ve seen a post where somebody said she´s sending all the collected cigarette butts from a clean up to Terra Cycle.
I was wondering who actually can recycle cigarette butts, so I googled them and found out they have an office in Toronto, too.
I mailed them and they were happy to invite me to their office, show me around and answer my questions.
So I drove by bike for two hours (one way) to visit the Terra Cycle office in Toronto. Driving there with public transportation would still have been 1.5 hours, so I thought its better for my condition to drive my bike :D Well, it's been a little challenge, through a park and up a few steep parts, busy streets with no bike paths and I mixed up the house number, but eventually I found them and I saw some wildlife and nature and architecture on the way. (The way back home was worse, I got lost, and it started to rain heavy... hahahaa, a real adventure;)
The office is really cool decorated with recycled/upcycled stuff. Creative and colored. Old doors as tables, lampshades made of bottles and old discs....
As you might know by now, municipal recycling does not mean that everything you put in the recycling bin actually will get recycled. A lot of it is getting sorted out and burned or just end up in landfill because the plastic is too dirty, too different, too mixed, too smelly, whatever...Or its just so much cheaper to make new plastic.
So how can we make a change? By refusing as much plastic as we can!
But sometimes we can´t or we know people who won´t.
So it´s great to see that more and more companies are rethinking, banning bags or single use plastic straws and also more and more are collaborating with recycling programs like Terra Cycle.
Tom Szaky started this whole journey in 2001 with compost. He had some friends who had a kitchen compost with worms. They were feeding the worms with kitchen scraps and they used the worm-"poo" as fertilizer for their indoor plants. So the first idea has actually been to help eliminate food waste by making fertilizer from food waste. Mostly from food scraps/food waste from Princeton University's cafeterias.
The "worm-poo" / the fertilizer has been filled into reused plastic bottles that they've collected at the campus.
From there they came to different "Brigades" with sponsored companies. The Drink Pouch Brigade, Yogurt Cup Brigade, Energy Bar Wrapper Brigade...In 2008 they collected Target plastic bags to make reusable tote bags out of recycled plastic bags.
2012 Terra Cycle launched the first recycling program for cigarette butts (one of the most littered item world wide). Since 2014 you can buy recycling boxes for almost all forms of waste.
And this year they started a Beach Plastic campaign (more about this later on).
How does the zero waste boxes work?
If you have a capsule coffee machine in your office, you could buy a box (order them online, you pay for the box and the delivery back to Terra Cycle is included) to collect all the coffee capsules and send it back to Terra Cycle when the box is full.
If you have a bar you could collect all the cigarette butts from your guests. Great way to educate people about cigarette butt littering.
(I asked what kind of boxes are bought the most, and it was clear, its been the coffee capsules. Scary for me to see that so many people actually like and drink coffee made of capsules, great to see though that more and more are aware and send them to Terra Cycle).
What happens with the stuff you send to Terra Cycle?
Terra Cycle is working together with recycling companies who are making plastic pellets out of the collected plastics. Out of these pellets you can make lumber.
Then they can sell these or the pellets itself to manufacturers who are using recycled plastics.
Mostly these are used for garden furniture, bins, door mats, etc. some kind of harder stuff. It's not good enough to make stretchy or squeezable plastic things out of it. Cigarette butts will get recycled to something that is not used close to a person, like an ashtray, where you can collect all your cigarette butts to then again send back to Terra Cycle ;)
(Every plastic needs different treatment, thats why most municipal recycling facilities can't recycle everything.)
How a private person can participate:
You can easily sign up for a Terra Cycle Profile here -> Your TerraCycle Profile.
You can then join the free recycling programs and collect Terra Cycle Points with your waste. These Terra Cycle Points can then be donated to a charity listed on Terra Cycle.
Isn´t this a great circle?
How a school or organization can participate:
You can sign up easily, too.
If you are a school, you can then collect waste in your school and send it to Terra Cycle. Collecting points and actually as a non- profit organization or school you can add your charity to the list and donate directly to your school (or organization).
It's such a great way to teach kids in schools how to collect waste, how to recycle and just teach them about all the plastic problems in the oceans.
I´ve even seen some pictures of schools that had playgrounds made of recycled plastic. And one outdoor fitness place in the UK. There are great ideas out there on how to upcycle plastics for longer lasting products. The idea of creating a throw away product out of recycled plastic is actually just a slower way to end up in a burning waste to energy facility or landfill. But producing long lasting products made of old plastics? That is the way to go if you ask me!
Since this year (2017) Terra Cycle is working together with organizations making bigger and regular beach clean ups. These organizations are collecting huge bags of plastic trash from the beaches, and then sending them to Terra Cycle.
How awesome! Normally you can´t recycle that kind of plastic because its too dirty or already broken down.
To find out what kind of plastic waste you could collect and send to Terra Cycle take a look here. All the free recycling programs are listed here, too. -> https://www.terracycle.com/en-US/brigades
Check the Terra Cycle website for your own country to see what they have. Terra Cycle is working in 20 different countries. https://www.terracycle.com/en-US/select-country
Tom Szaky also wrote some books. I had the chance to read these two and they are awesome. A lot of informations, tips and hacks! Check them out:
I hope you enjoyed the post.
Make sure to check your plastic waste, if you consume anything regularly that you can send to Terra Cycle, get started!
Feel free to share, comment and recycle ;)
Have a great day, and always remember: make some daily happy choices :)
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Hi my name is Jule
I am a nature and ocean lover. A passionate runner and minimalistic traveller. On this blog I share my experiences, thoughts and ideas about the "sustainable lifestyle" and how you can stick to this while traveling.
You like what I share? If yes, feel free to buy me a coffee <3