TerraCycle: Sustainable or greenwashing?

​Terracycle say they are on a mission to recycle the previously un-recyclable, sounds awesome right? Maybe, or maybe we should just buy less plastic wrapped stuff from corporations.

Overconsumption and a throwaway culture have led to a global waste crisis. While even complex rubbish is technically recyclable, most materials are not profitable to recycle. As a result, waste piles up in landfills and pollutes our planet while virgin materials are extracted from the earth to create new products.

Terracycle website

Ethical Consumer have some comments on this in their recent article: https://www.ethicalconsumer.org/home-garden/terracycle-sustainable-or-greenwashing

We don’t urge consumers to avoid TerraCycle recycling programmes. However, we do think it’s important to highlight how TerraCycle collaborates with brands in a way that might suggest that they are helping to solve the plastic pollution problem, when in fact those brands continue to be leading contributors to the plastic pollution problem.

So with Terracycle working with all the most polluting companies, is this a good or bad thing? It’s better than NOT recycling. but maybe we should just buy less stuff from these companies, eat real food from local businesses and use Zero Waste shops more.

Just use less plastic?

All this recycling sounds great, but when they are working companies selling questionably unnecessary products in huge amounts of plastic, wouldn’t it make more sense to just not create these products in the first place? Overpriced sugar water in plastic bottles, processed single serve foods and all kinds of other crap supermarkets sell could all just.. not be there.

Degrowth is a growing idea – we can’t keep growing economies and allowing corporations to strip mine the earth for shareholder profits.

Degrowth broadly means shrinking rather than growing economies, so we use less of the world’s energy and resources and put wellbeing ahead of profit.


We just need to buy less stuff and use less fossil fuel. With our whole economy of business, investments and pensions based on perpetual growth this is easier said than done, but we don’t really have a choice any more. Climate change is having drastic effects now, not in 10, 20 or 50 years. We need drastic change now and reducing the amount we consume is a clear way to do this. Sorry, corporate shareholders.


While Terracycle initially sounds like a great idea, looking at their client list it becomes clear that we’d be better off not buying from those companies and supporting local business instead. Degrowth is also a strong strategy to correct the damage we’ve done to the earth, and that doesn’t involved corporations as they are always looking to increase profits at all costs.


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