Every hour, 2.5 million plastic bottles are thrown away – and that’s in America alone. Most people you come across probably know that recycling is an effort that most people should – yet don’t – participate in. Maybe that’s why companies like TerraCycle have incentivized it.
But is this a legit work from home opportunity?
It’s legit, but you can’t actually earn an income from TerraCycle. It offers free recycling programs that reward you with points, but those points cannot be redeemed for cash. Instead, you can redeem them for donations to charities or schools.
Before you write it off as a complete waste of time, just because you can’t earn cold hard cash doesn’t mean it won’t be worth your time.
In this review, we’ll cover what TerraCycle is all about, how the process of earning points works, what I like and dislike about it, and hopefully help you decide if you want to get involved with it!
What is TerraCycle?
TerraCycle is a company whose goal is to “recycle everything,” thus reducing the amount of waste that goes into our landfills and oceans.
They have over 200,000 people participating in their programs in over 20 countries, and so far they’ve recycled over 7 billion pounds of waste.
They offer three main programs to help encourage people, businesses, and even municipalities recycle. Those are:
- Free Recycling Programs: Funded by partners to help individuals collect and recycle “hard-to-recycle” items in exchange for redeemable points.
- Loop: A way to buy name-brand products in reusable containers that can be shipped back (for free), refilled, and reused.
- Zero Waste Boxes: Boxes for purchase that allow you to recycle items not eligible for their free programs or accepted by local recycling programs.
They also offer regulated waste that help you recycle hazardous or otherwise harmful waste materials, such as medical waste, fluorescent lamps, batteries, and e-waste.
They’ve even partnered with cities and municipalities to help encourage recycling, such as providing cigarette butt receptacles alongside city garbage cans.
Who’s Behind It?
This company started in 2001 by a guy named Tom Szaky as an idea to help reduce waste by creating fertilizer from composted materials. After years of successfully selling plant food, the startup slowly began moving to recycling plastic bottles and reusing beverage pouches.
As the company grew, they began expanding to incorporate various recycling programs, eventually growing into what it is today.
What’s In It For Them?
As you’ve probably gathered, TerraCycle’s goal is to eliminate waste by recycling, thus helping the environment.
And while it’s a noble goal, and they’ve had reasonable success at it, that’s not the only factor driving them forward.
The question, of course, is, “How do they make money?” And the answer is pretty simple.
Basically, all they do is process the collected garbage and convert it into some material that then gets sold to various manufacturers.
Or, in other cases, they might turn the garbage into new products like bags and such, that then get resold.
How Does it Work?
Now that you know what TerraCycle is all about, you might be wondering how you can make money at it.
The quick answer is: you can’t, at least not in the form of cash anyway. Instead, the main way you’ll earn money is by earning points that can only be redeemed online as donations to your choice of charity or school.
There are two main ways to earn points:
- Free Recycling Programs
Let’s take a deeper look into what each one entails!
Free Recycling Program
TerraCycle’s free recycling programs are the main ways you can earn points, as everyone who signs up for them get automatically enrolled in the TerraCycle Points Program.
The process is simple, you just start collecting recyclables compatible with the programs you’ve signed up for, download and print the free shipping labels, and send in the waste, which then gets recycled!
Some examples of programs include:
- Burt’s Bees Recycling Program
- Brita Recycling Program
- Colgate Oral Care Recycling Program
- Cigarette Waste Recycling Program
- Hasbro Toy Recycling Program
As you can see, each program is sponsored by a brand, retailer, or manufacturer. You can enroll in as many programs as you like, so the more you sign up for, the more points you can earn!
Something to note, though, is that not all programs are eligible to earn points. For example, while you can sign up and recycle (for free) Hasbro toys, that program does not offer you any points.
For those programs that do offer points, the exact number can vary. However, it’s most commonly associated with the weight of the shipment you’re sending back to them.
For example, for the Burt’s Bees Recycling Program, shipments that are over one pound earn you 100 points per pound. And for the Colgate Oral Care Recycling Program, shipments must be at least five pounds, and you get 100 points per pound.
Another way you can earn points – and even other prizes – is by the various contests they host.
Generally, there’s only one contest going on at a time. Most contests are free to enter, and the prizes and conditions vary from contest to contest.
For example, one contest was called the “Holiday Bonus Bucks,” and it gave you an extra 100 points every time you sent in a shipment for the month of December.
Another example was the “Open Farm Photo Contest,” where you sent in a picture of your pet along with reasons why they inspire you to recycle. The winner (selected at random) won a three-month supply of Open Farm pet food and a donation to the animal shelter of their choice.
Yet another example is the “Arm & Hammer and OxiClean Pouch Recycling Program” contest, where one winner was chosen every week to receive Arm & Hammer and Oxiclean products. That was on top of the fact that everyone who entered also earned 100 extra bonus points.
Contests are the only way to actually get your hands on products, instead of just offering donations.
How Much Can You Make?
As we’ve already stated, you won’t be earning any actual cash by doing this, and your chances of walking away with prizes are pretty slim, too. But, earning points to donate is a great option, and even better when coupled with the fact that you’re getting to donate because you’re helping out the environment.
You can redeem your points online through a variety of charities they’ve partnered with. And actually, unlike other points-to-rewards systems like SweatCoin, you don’t have to save up a ton of points to be able to get something of value.
Though it varies, you can generally earn 100 points per pound of waste shipped to TerraCycle through one of their participating programs.
Here’s a few examples of what you can use your points on, and how much they cost:
- 2,500 points will give the school or organization of your choice $25
- 4 points provides a blind child with one sheet of Braille paper from the Kilimanjaro Blind Trust
- 6 points provides one week’s worth of clean drinking water to one person
- 100 points goes to helping those affected by natural disasters through the Red Cross
- 50 points helps Feeding America provide one meal to someone in need
- 2,250 points adopts one acre of wildlife from the National Wildlife Federation
- 100 points guards one acre of rainforest in the northwestern Amazon for one year
So, as you can see, points here go a lot farther than you would think. Just one 1-pound shipment of Burt’s Bees containers will provide two meals for people in need!
What I Like
- Allows you to donate while helping the environment
- Free to use
- Rewards cost a reasonable amount of points
What I Don’t Like
- Can’t earn actual cash
- Can take a lot of time to collect pounds of company-specific recyclables in a single household
- Their list of charities is relatively limited
Summing It Up
Overall, if your goal is to make actual money, this is not the way to go. On the other hand, if your goal is to be incentivized to help the environment, or you’re looking for other ways to donate money or earn cool prizes, you might want to give this a try.
Either way, hopefully this article has helped you learn about an innovative company, and whether or not you want to get involved with them!