TerraCycle is the world leader in the collection and recycling of waste streams that are traditionally considered not-recyclable. The waste collected by programme participants in return for a charitable donation is recycled and sold to manufacturers that make new products and materials using them. 



Perishable goods and their packaging have been designed for one-time use with a linear economic model in mind. Unfortunately, collection and recycling is not economically viable as the cost of the process of collection of waste and its processing outweighs the value of the reclaimed materials.

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TerraCycle found a solution to this challenge by implementing incentives for every participant in the partnership. First, it must engage society in the collection practices. It achieves that by offering a reward for waste collection in the form of charitable or school donation. This in return decreases littering, landfilling and incineration as it puts value to otherwise worthless waste.

The sponsoring brands can expand its environmental performance, receiving positive recognition in the press and social media for their role in enabling recycling of otherwise non-recyclable waste.

TerraCycle has created an array of collection programmes that generate value well beyond the material worth of the waste that is collected, allowing them to recycle waste that is considered valueless. Writing instruments recycling programme – cooperation between TerraCycle, BIC, Govaplast and Plas Eco – is an exemplary programme.

“Yes, you want your company to be profitable, so you know it has a future. But I think the purpose of a business is what it does–what service it provides, what product it makes, how it helps people, society, planet. I wanted to create a business that puts those things first.”


Key enablers

The implemented circular business model pattern is, to a certain extent, replicable and transferable to other entities, partnerships and offers substantial potential for positive environmental and economic benefits. TerraCycle has made a brand for itself that is associated with citizens activity, environmentally friendly collection programmes and products manufactured in cooperation with their customers. It is the brand recognition accompanied by TerraCycle’s marketing experience that is the key factors for the company’s success. 

“We celebrate waste and try to make it fun, exciting and even sexy.”


Circular Economy Business Models


TerraCycle’s mission is to eliminate the idea of waste. This mission is based on three pillars: 1. Make everything recyclable, 2. Make everything from waste, 3. Eliminate the concept of waste. 

The partnership and coordination implemented by TerraCycle is allowing recovery of resources started in the collection activity. Resource recovery is the separation of certain materials from the waste produced, with the aim of using them again or turning them into raw materials and using it in production once again. 

By offering innovative solutions for recycling or upcycling products and packaging which is classed as “non-recyclable” or “hard-to-recycle”, it has diverted more than 7.7 billion pieces of waste, contributed by more than 202 million consumers, from landfill to date.

Low transport emissions, due to short travel distances, the reuse of packaging, and the use of organic waste on farms bring important environmental benefits.

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