In January, I wrote about my purchase of a rather fancy cardboard box. What possessed me to purchase mid-sized piece of cardboard for £117.62 you ask? Well, this box is pretty special – it allows all sorts of things that would normally end up in landfill to go for recycling instead. This is done courtesy of a company called Terracycle.

Terracycle, through a mixture of free collection points and boxes you can purchase for your home or business, pride themselves on recycling the unrecyclable – cigarette butts, flipflops, cassette tapes – and more other things than I could have possibly imagined.

Over the past few years, I’ve been on a mission to reduce the amount of waste our household produces. What I’ve learned in that time is that a lot of waste is avoidable, based on strategies of:

  1. trying to purchase only what I actually need,
  2. shopping second hand for clothes and household goods when I do purchase things, keeping them maintained and fixing them if they break,
  3. taking time to create some avoidance strategies for the seemingly endless amount of packaging our food comes in, and composting the leftovers.

However, at the end of all this refusing, reducing, repairing, recycling and rotting, there was still some bits and pieces lurking in our black bin. Now these are going in our Terracycle Zero Waste box, what’s actually in there?

The pic above shows the period from 24th January to 16th May 2017, in all its rubbishy glory. From left to right, it is:

  • A clothes hanger that the shop insisted I take with me otherwise it would be chucked in the bin. Also, my only first-hand clothing purchase this year! In case you’re interested it was a sports bra, as I have taken up running and going without one would have been a. painful for me, and b. alarming for anyone in the vicinity.
  • The bottom part of a shower curtain that came with the house, but was surplus to requirements.
  • Crisp packets (which also contain a number of chocolate wrappers). If there’s one food item you hear zero wasters lamenting in their discussions about waste (yes we have those, and yes we are very cool), it’s crisps. In all their salty, greasy glory. There’s around eight packets overall, plus numerous little chocolate wrappers that I’ve brought home from work when people have brought gifts in.
  • A split rubber glove. Unfixable, and now pretty useless.
  • An invitation on photo paper.
  • The polystyrene bottom of a pizza packet (I had mistakenly thought it was cardboard).
  • Partner’s asthma inhalers.
  • A cut-off section of a sink liner.
  • Elastic bands past repair.
  • A straw. This one was particularly galling as I had specifically asked for no straw, grrr.
  • Empty makeup compacts. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with makeup – why do we as women feel compelled to wear it? Perhaps I’ll save that for another blog post though!
  • Broken end of a light pull.
  • Toothpaste tubes. For me, fluoride is an essential, and I can’t find any non-plastic alternatives. It was actually toothpaste tubes that inspired me to buy the Terracycle box in the first place, so it’s quite surprising how little of the box they make up.
  • Empty biro.
  • Butter packets. I understand that it is possible to soak these packets in vinegar to separate the packaging into foil and paper, but I think I might be too lazy for that TBH.
  • Yogurt and vegetarian haggis labels. The haggis is a yearly treat, so I’ll let that pass. The yogurt labels annoy me, as the yogurt itself comes in glass jars and the empties are perfect for storing our honey harvest in. I do however have vague plans to try making yogurt from scratch, using this suspiciously easy-sounding recipe from Wonky Veg Blog.
  • Packing tape. One of the downsides of asking companies to send you items in paper rather than plastic is that they come with a lot more tape on them. I don’t really know if that’s any better than the plastic though?
  • A label from a pillow.
  • An old sponge. At least there won’t be many more of these, as we’ve moved to using a loofah and a wooden dish brush for the washing up.
  • An empty plastic-covered notebook. A purchase from many, many years ago, before I became anti-plastic obsessed!
  • A few bits of random food packaging, including fruit stickers.
  • Toothbrushes. There won’t be many more of these, as we now use bamboo toothbrushes, occasionally supplemented with a deep clean from the electric toothbrush.
  • Medicine packets. The week I purchased this box, we both came down with heavy colds, so our pill consumption went from very little to LOADS for a couple of weeks. Bah.
  • Random packaging bits found in drawers during a clear out.

Altogether, this takes up just under a quarter of the box. If this continues, or as I hope, my consumption can drop a bit further, I think it should take around 18 months to fill the box up completely. This takes the per-month cost of the box to around £6.50, which feels a pretty reasonable price to take our landfill down to around two small bags a year.

I’m surprised at the amount of junk food packaging that’s in there, if I’m honest. Cutting that down would clearly be better for my waist as well as my waste, so this is going to be my inspiration for the next four months!

If you’d like to look at the range of boxes for different kinds of waste available, or see if there’s a drop-off point near you, visit for more information. And if you have any suggestions for me as to how I can reduce my waste even further (other than ‘put down the crisps!’ I’d love to hear from you 🙂



7 thoughts on “My Terracycle Zero Waste Box: four months on

    1. It’s really interesting noticing what actively paying to dispose of rubbish does to your mindset! I know we pay for waste disposal through council tax, but it doesn’t feel like it counts in the same way. Buying a packet of crisps now feels like a very conscious decision, although clearly not enough to stop me!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This is interesting! I’ve been trying to avoid all Terracycle items just to not invest in it (the public options are me are dismal), but that’s clearly not going to happen. Chips – erm, crisps – just seem to happen!

    I’m thinking of trying to get together a group of people to go in on a box so it takes the cost down, so this was really helpful to see a reflection on Terracycle!


    1. I can definitely see the advantages of getting a group together to split a larger (more cost effective) box. I do think companies that produce the items that can’t be recycled really should make facilities available though, and not rely on the consumer to pay twice – once to buy and once to dispose!


  2. Yes I agree with the last comment.
    My problem with Terracycle is getting the correct advice about what to put in which box. I have bought several for different waste streams , but some items are a mystery. I don’t want to foul up the system by sending the wrong things in the wrong box, but I can not get Terracycle to reply to my email.The staff are helpful on the phone but to be honest , they do not seem to be any more knowledgeable than I am.
    I bought two generic boxes for all rubbish streams but they are much more expensive than the individual boxes so I don’t want to use them up with things that could more economically go into the specialised boxes.


    1. That’s very frustrating! That even the staff there don’t always know what can and can’t be recycled really gets to the heart of the issue that the idea of a circular economy hasn’t been built in to the design of most products at all. That manufacturers aren’t expected to build recyclability in to their products means everyone suffers further down the line…


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