A box that can recycle almost anything
Keen recyclers are finding it increasingly difficult for councils to take all their waste but a new service being launched in New Zealand offers to take and recycle almost anything.
Terracycle, a multinational which specialises in hard to recycle products, is launching the Zero Wastebox, a service that for a fee will recycle anything as long as it’s within a certain waste stream. Wasteboxes for beauty products, garage waste, cigarette butts, PPE and even nappies are among the options offered, taking potentially hundreds of items typically considered non-recyclable by traditional kerbside recycling.
Terracycle’s Australia and New Zealand general manager Jean Bailliard says getting the consumer to pay for the cost of disposal is one way to deal with the economic signals that prevent the loop being closed on many products. ‘‘Take for instance coffee capsules. You know you can put your aluminium cans in the recycling bin and that is pretty valuable. That is sold by the waste management companies for $800 a tonne, so they’ll happily take that.
‘‘But aluminium coffee capsules will not be accepted in your recycling bin, not because it’s not possible to do it because frankly it’s not very complex – you just have to shred the coffee capsule and separate the coffee ground ... But for waste management companies they see it as a cost exercise.
‘‘If companies actually pay for the collection and separate the products, there are so many things you can recycle.’’
The cost of a Zero Waste box varies around $200 to $300, but it includes the cost of postage or a courier fee to ship the box when it’s full back to Terracycle’s New Zealand depot.
There it’s sorted and either dealt with in New Zealand or shipped to a specialist overseas recycler. Many of the items are chipped, washed and melted down into items such as garden bags or park benches. Zero Waste boxes, which are already available in Australia, are generally bought more by schools, hospitals and offices looking to lighten their footprint than individuals.
‘‘I wouldn’t buy a box as a consumer but I would ask my office team to get one,’’ Bailliard said.
There are a handful of products which aren’t accepted by the Wasteboxes and they include the 17 hard to recycle product types that Terracycle already collects for free through community venues. Razor blades, skincare packaging, pens and coffee capsules are all accepted, with big brands such as Colgate, Gillette and Nescafe helping to cover the costs.
The range of products has become quite broad – Vapo and alt. recently announced they would recycle used vaping products through Terracycle’s collection system. And troublesome food pouches for babyfood, seafood and petfood are being collected via retailers or by offering consumers free postage to Terracycle.
‘‘But we’ve only got a handful of those providers and sometimes businesses want to recycle more and there would be scraps or protective equipment and so on. And that’s why we launched Zero Wastebox ... to provide a solution for all the waste streams that do not have a sponsored solution,’’ Bailliard says. Terracycle chose to launch the Wastebox on April 22 because it is Earth Day, and there are some sobering figures on New Zealand’s clean, green image.
According to the company, figures show New Zealand is the most wasteful developed country in the world and the 10th most wasteful country in the world per capita. Each year New Zealand sent 350,000 tonnes of waste to landfill because of a low population and lack of recycling facilities.
Us-based Terracycle is now in 21 countries and its foundation collects plastic waste from polluted riverways in Thailand.
One of its better known subdiaries is Loop, which partners with big brands to introduce reuseable packaging.