Good Life

Recycling | Program takes one more step toward zero waste

What do our local elementary schools, day care centers, churches, nonprofit organizations and Penn State all have in common? Many of them are involved with the TerraCycle recycling collection program.

What is TerraCycle?

TerraCycle, based in Trenton, N.J., grew from a recycling company specializing in plant food made from worm castings to an “upcycler” of hard-to-recycle packaging and products generated in the U.S and 22 other counties. TerraCycle uses the materials to make products, such as clocks and picture frames made from recycled circuit boards, which are marketed nationally through major retailers and sold online. It’s “Drink Pouch Brigade” program recycles the pouches into backpacks, duffle bags, tote bags and even plastic fencing.

What are the benefits?

Most county recycling programs do not collect hard-to-recycle items such as shoes, glue sticks, tape dispensers, candy wrappers, chip bags and drink pouches, to name a few. TerraCycle collects these items and many others and either recycles them or repurposes them into other products.

Most of our local TerraCycle Brigade collection stations have a brigade leader who manages the collection and publicizes what items can be dropped off. Once enough items are collected, the leader packages the items for pre-paid shipments to TerraCycle.

Once your items are received and checked in to the TerraCycle facility, your brigade collection location will be credited with TerraCycle points. The TerraCycle points may be redeemed for a variety of charitable gifts, or for a payment of $0.01 per point to the charity or organization of your choice.

How can I join?

To get started, simply sign up at and join a brigade program for the items that you want to collect. There are currently more than 40 programs that collect items ranging from food packaging (like drink pouches and candy wrappers) to office supplies (like pens and tape dispensers) to personal products (like cosmetic, beauty and diaper packaging). You can join as many brigade programs as you like.

Once you have joined a program, just download the “Collect, Store & Ship Guide” for helpful suggestions on how to become a successful brigade collection station. When your items are ready to be sent, you can download a shipping label from your TerraCycle account.

Instead of starting your own brigade, consider piggy backing onto one that already exists. Park Forest Elementary collects writing instruments (pens, pencils, markers), and Gray’s Woods Elementary collects empty glue sticks, that parents send in with their students. Penn State’s Candy Wrapper Brigade accepts candy wrappers from the public at Eisenhower Auditorium.

If you currently manage a brigade or intend to in the near future, please contact me at, so I can add you to a list of sites.

Thank you to all of the current TerraCycle brigade leaders!