Today I want to shout out an incredibly awesome company- TerraCycle. They are based in NJ like myself, and they collaborate with brands and companies to recycle their products, even materials that are not normally recyclable. They have a ton of programs; I signed up for their Colgate program to send in our toothpaste tubes and their Bimbo bakeries program that collects bread, bagel, and roll bags. They are constantly expanding and adding new programs, and most of them are free too! I use boxes I already have and print out the shipping labels and send my stuff on its way to be broken down and used to build park benches. They also have drop off locations for various items. Some dentist offices participate and you can bring your used retainers and invisible aligners for recycling, and some Target stores have boxes set up to collect laundry detergent bottles. There are so many programs, and I have to keep looking every few weeks to see if they have added any that can help me on my journey.
They also have zero waste boxes. I am super excited to write about this. I ordered a kitchen zero waste box to help avoid making trash in the kitchen. Food packaging is so hard to avoid, and we are working on trying to purchase more food packaged in cans and glass, but some things are just unavoidable. While we are working on substituting things out, we are still eating the food we already have, which is all in packaging. We can put candy wrappers, medicine bottles, bags that cereal comes in… and all kitchen plastic waste into this box. Once it is full, it has a label on it to send back- easy! While using this box, I am keeping a log of our trash again to assess what else we are throwing away aside from food packaging. We just bought and moved into a house, and we are planning to start a compost, which should help with a lot of our food waste. We have yet to build our compost bin, and I will write about that once we accomplish that goal! If we begin composting and continue to use the zero waste box from TerraCycle, we will make almost no trash. Our current (compostable, of course) garbage bags never fill up and when they do, they are full of a few weeks’ worth of tissues and food scraps that cannot go down our garbage disposal. We can compost those so our trash cans will possibly never be used! I do want to eliminate trash altogether and not need these boxes, but using them is a great way to help us in our transition and realize what we are throwing away. We can gradually substitute food products we purchase for products with less packaging, and work our way slowly. Some things are difficult though; for example, my husband and I both love cereal and are both picky about which kinds we will eat, but cereal always has a bag inside the cardboard box it comes in. Another easier option would be to keep purchasing the zero waste boxes but have less and less of a need for them, but when we have no choice but to make plastic waste, we can rest assured that it will go to TerraCycle and be recycled into something useful and not end up in a landfill.
All these experiments are actually fun because it feels so great to be making an impact, no matter how small. I get so satisfied when it’s trash night and all of our neighbors have their cans out at the curb, filled to the brim with garbage bags, and we don’t even put ours out. We can get away with taking our can out every 2-3 weeks right now, and even then it is only maybe half full. We are making great progress, but a lot of that is owed to TerraCycle and the great programs they have available for environmentalist folks like us!