What does recycling do

Recycling terms and definitions

Disposal scenarios for products and recyclables


To reuse a certain material or a product means to reuse this material for its original purpose after it has been used. Sometimes products that are reused are considered to have been used or obsolete. The original product has usually not been altered in any way before it has been reused. Examples range from used cars and used golf clubs to clothes and shoes with previous owners.


Upcycling means reusing a certain valuable material or a product, but in a way that differs from its original purpose. If the original product is left intact, its shape, form or material can be reused for another purpose. Examples of this are car tires that are used as a swing or other playground equipment, a cork board made from cork or the use of pallets as furniture or as part of a new interior design. Only a small amount of the material that TerraCycle collects falls into this category.


Recycling is the process of reprocessing discarded materials into a new product. The original product is destroyed in this process, usually by a melting process, but the recovered valuable material is used to manufacture new products. Examples include aluminum cans, plastic bottles, most food packaging, and much more! Most of the things TerraCycle collects fall into this category.

Waste incineration (or waste-to-energy / W2E)

Waste incineration refers to the process in which waste material is burned or subjected to other thermal processes. Depending on the product, this process can generate energy or fuel. Since this process breaks down the molecules due to the high temperatures, the waste material is irrevocably destroyed.


This refers to waste disposal by accumulating the waste material and then covering the waste with a layer of earth or other material. Landfilling basically describes the mummification of the waste material, as a very slow decomposition process can occur due to a lack of air circulation and sunlight. With this process, no valuable or raw material is recovered, except in a few exceptional cases in which landfills extract methane gas for energy generation.

Decrease your influence

There are many ways we, including as individuals, can reduce our impact on the planet and its finite resources. The following list provides a rough overview of things we can all do to become more environmentally conscious consumers:

  1. Reduction - The reduction of our total consumption in general. This can be achieved by turning off the tap while washing your hands, by taking shorter and less hot showers or by consciously regulating the use of air conditioning in summer or heating in winter. Carpooling reduces fuel consumption as well as the number of cars on the road. You can switch from mail to paperless e-mail; magazines, journals and invoices can all be accessed on the Internet.
  2. Buy used products - Acquiring used materials reduces the demand for rare commodities, and mostly used items are just as functional as their new counterparts. It's also cheaper for you!
  3. Buy More Durable Products - Choosing a high quality, durable product over cheaper alternatives is a great way to avoid consumption and waste.
  4. Buy consciously - if available, buy products that contain recycled materials or have a lower impact on the environment.
  5. And finally ask yourself, do you really need this product? If the answer is "no" and for this reason you are not purchasing it, you have made the conscious decision to reduce your impact on the environment.