How Can You Recycle … THAT?

Susy Alkaitis - September 14, 2020

We get it. Recycling is complicated and it takes dedicated time to do it right—even for us, a Leave No Trace Team! Whether it is a private trash/recycling collector service or city program, every community has different guidelines on what can be recycled, if anything, and how. 

But did you know that even the most unconventional items can be recycled, no matter where you live? 

TerraCycle is an online resource for recycling less common waste items. Think of the craziest piece of waste and chances are, it can be recycled through Terracycle—what better way to Leave No Trace?! This includes cigarette butts, contact lenses, toys and toothbrushes!

TerraCycle website has an extensive list of collection programs for different types of waste through mail-in programs. In most cases, TerraCycle works directly with manufacturers to offer the recycling for free to you—the consumer—for that specific brand or product with a pre-paid label you print out. In other cases, an outside corporation funds the recycling. 

For example, two of the Center’s partners, Subaru and REI, work with TerraCycle to recycle candy, chip bag and granola bar wrappers. Participating Subaru retailers and REI stores have a collection box for any brand of these crinkly wrappers, so you collect and clean the packages at home, then drop them off at your leisure. 

If you take a bus tour through Doyon/Aramark Joint Venture in Denali National Park and Preserve, all the food packaging is purposely recyclable through TerraCycle.

Participating Subaru retailers also collect other hard-to-recycle waste items. In addition to the collection boxes for snack wrappers, they have a box for disposable coffee cups/lids and coffee pods and creamer capsules. First verify with the local Subaru dealership that they have TerraCycle collection boxes, and if so, collect and clean the items at home and bring them into the retailer to drop into the boxes. 


Subaru added another timely recycling initiative in August in response to the increased Covid-19 waste. The automaker teamed up with TerraCycle to recycle personal protective equipment, such as disposable vinyl and latex gloves and disposable face masks, at Subaru’s headquarters in New Jersey and offices nationwide. 

What becomes of all these materials? TerraCycle cleans, melts and remolds the waste and upcycles them into benches, chairs, picnic tables, bike racks, waste receptacles, pallets, planters and bags. 

It takes 4,000 snack bags to create this Adirondack Chair!

On Thursday, September 10, we did a Q&A with Recycle Across America that lives on Instagram TV and @leavenotracecenter. Check that out if you want guidelines for recycling the most common items. But while we’re all still spending more time at home, maybe one of our goals could be to do a trash audit, and find out if any of our waste items can be recycled through TerraCycle. 

By the Subaru/Leave No Trace Teams. For over 20 years these teams have provided tangible solutions to serious issues facing our outside space and reach over 15 million people every year. Learn more about the important work of our mobile education teams.  Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, REI, Eagles Nest Outfitters, Thule, Fjällräven and Klean Kanteen.

Let’s protect and enjoy our natural world together

Get the latest in Leave No Trace eNews in your inbox so you can stay informed and involved.