Recycling: TerraCycle Toys Zero Waste Box

Last updated on February 1, 2024.

TerraCycle toy waste boxes, 3 sizes, with outset circle showing a rubber duck, legos, toy cars, and other toys.

For Christmas, I asked for a TerraCycle Toys Zero Waste box. They’re almost $100, so I didn’t expect that I’d actually get one, but I did (and thank you)!

I was super excited because in 2017 I’d signed up for a free broken toy recycling program through TerraCycle, sponsored by Tom’s of Maine. I sent what I had but for the next full year, I saved every broken toy I found. I asked friends to give me their broken toys too. However, Tom’s of Maine stopped sponsoring this program in 2018. I emailed them to ask why, and they responded that they had “decided not to re-run this promotion” with no further details.

I was disappointed. By then I had a huge box of broken toys, and I continued to add to the box, refusing to throw them in a landfill. So I added the TerraCycle Toys Zero Waste Box to my Christmas list.

Large brown cardboard box of broken toys. I collected and save broken toys for about 20 months.
I collected and saved broken toys for almost 2 years. Photo by Marie Cullis.
Broken toy contents.
Broken toy contents. Photo by Marie Cullis.
Damaged green, plastic baseball bat.
We had tried to extend the life of this plastic baseball bat by duct-taping it. But it was time to let it go. We got this before we understood how acutely broken plastic toys contribute to the waste crisis and ocean pollution. Photo by Marie Cullis.

Receiving my box

The box arrived in a large plastic wrap, which I was able to repurpose as a garbage bag (I stopped buying garbage bags in 2018). This is what the TerraCycle box looks like unassembled:

TerraCycle Toys Zero Waste box, flat on a hardwood floor.
TerraCycle Toys Zero Waste box. Photo by Marie Cullis.

Since the box is meant to be placed in an area for collection, such as at an office or a daycare center, it is equipped with handles on the sides, perforations at the top to drop items in, and a plastic bag inside.

I removed the plastic bag because it was preventing me from being able to fit everything (and I did repurpose that bag as well). I asked my husband, who is a master at packing, to assist because I was having trouble fitting everything, including that plastic green bat. We were able to fit 95% of it.

My husband helping me pack the box, sitting on the floor with toys and two boxes.
My husband helped me pack the box. Photo by Marie Cullis.
Full TerraCycle box with colorful plastic toys at the top.
We managed to get 95% of it in the box! Photo by Marie Cullis.

The few items that didn’t fit I placed in a bin in my garage, marked “Plastic Recycling.” It contains plastic items that are not normally recyclable. I plan to save up for an All-In-One Zero Waste Box from TerraCycle.

Ready to ship

The whole process was easy, including shipment. The purchase of the box includes the cost of shipping and comes with the label already on it. So I dropped it off at FedEx! It felt good to ship those items off after having collected and saved them for so long.

Thoughts on TerraCycle

I admire this company, its mission, and its founder. I like that they take non-recyclable items and make them into cool, useful, new products. I am grateful that they are creating great, visionary, and intelligent solutions!

While TerraCycle is only a small percentage of recycling options, you can purchase zero-waste boxes on their website. There are many types and sizes available. It is costly, but sometimes we have to pay now or pay environmentally later. Remember, we can all be the change in small ways.

You can also participate in their free programs by signing up through their website. I’ve participated in several of the free programs including contact lens product recycling; Brita filter recycling; and oral care products recycling. I had to save those things up for a long time, but I have a designated shelf in my garage for such items. I label bins with the name of the recycling or donation program. You can make a designated space too!

Image of my designated shelf for recycling items - white metal open shelves with bins and boxes and cans with labels on them.
My designated “transient” shelf in the garage. I collect items I can recycle or donate locally until I have enough to take or ship. In this image, there are a few unlabeled bins but they are all in use now. I’ve added a place for thrift store donations, the used book store, and a couple of TerraCycle programs. Photo by Marie Cullis.

But recycling is not the answer

It helps, sure, but Refusing certain products made of plastic and/or sold in plastic packaging is the key. We all must refuse these items, reduce the use of what we cannot refuse, and then recycle. So recycling should be the third option.

Only 9% of our plastics are actually recycled! That means 91% of our plastics are NOT recycled.

I love TerraCycle because it is a step in the right direction. However, using their programs does not discourage consumers from buying plastic products. In turn, it does not send the message to the corporations that they need to alter their plastic production and packaging.

So keep trying to REFUSE. Use TerraCycle and similar programs when you can’t refuse.

Landscape with rolling hills and mountains, a pond, green grass, and blue sky with white clouds. Wild flowers in foreground.
Earth is beautiful. Let’s keep it that way, image by Free-Photos on Pixabay.

I hope this was informative and I would love to hear about your experiences with TerraCycle recycling, or how you’ve stopped buying certain plastic items. Thanks for reading!

This post does not contain any affiliate links nor was I paid to review TerraCycle products.

Book Review: “You Wouldn’t Want to Live Without Plastic!”

Last updated on February 1, 2024.

You Wouldn't Want to Live Without Plastic! book cover.

I love books and love sharing them with my son. However, once in a while, we come across a book that offers poor or inaccurate information. This book is one of those. I like to focus on positive reviews, but I feel reviewing this book is important for people to be aware of because it has a lot of misleading information, in my humble opinion.

We know that while there are a few great uses for plastic in the world, such as plastic heart valves and vision care, most plastics are wasteful, full of toxins, and are not reusable. Unfortunately, we humans have gone overboard on plastic consumption and waste, which is why we have to fight so hard to reverse the damage now.

The Good

The book provides a concise history of plastic development and manufacturing, which is helpful for the recommended age range of 8-12 years. The story explains that post-1950s was “the beginning of our ‘throwaway’ lifestyle. Instead of repairing something, we throw it away and buy something new to replace it.” Here is a missed opportunity to express that that is the wrong thing to do environmentally.

The story mentions that certain types of plastics can be used to make strong materials for safety. These include clothing to protect firefighters and race car drivers, and helmets for sports and biking/motorcycling. Some plastic is even made fireproof. As I said, plastics do have their place, sometimes.

The book indicates that there are problems with plastic, but not until toward the end of the story. It mentions that animals ingest plastics and that plastics are polluting the ocean. It offers solutions such as recycling and incineration. But as we know, only about 9% of plastics are actually recycled. Incineration pollutes the air with toxic chemicals released from plastics during burning.

Some extra facts were listed at the end of the book. One of them, which I feel should have been at the beginning or in the part about the future, was: “Plastic takes so long to break down that nearly every piece of plastic ever made still exists today.” That’s exactly why we have problems now.

Beach pollution in the Dominican Republic, mostly plastic. Photo by Dustan Woodhouse on Unsplash.
Beach pollution in the Dominican Republic, mostly plastic. Photo by Dustan Woodhouse on Unsplash.

The Bad

Since we have such a problem pollution problem now, authors have the opportunity to teach children to look for alternatives in the future. Unfortunately, the majority of the book promotes plastic as a good resource that we NEED. It explains the different methods of plastic production, and how plastic begins as nurdles, although they didn’t use that term. It did not mention the various chemical compositions of plastic, or that they can be toxic to human health.

For example, the book mentions twice that plastic is better for toys because plastic is safer and more durable. Plastic is not more durable than metal or wood. And safer is not always true. If you compare it to toys made from lead, yes, because lead is highly poisonous. But we also know that chemicals like phthalates and BPA are found in many plastic toys and infant items. There are other chemicals in plastics that we don’t know the long-term effects of yet.

Another example indicates that synthetic clothing is better because it will not shrink like clothes made from natural fibers. True that they may not shrink, but we know that microfibers from washing synthetic clothing are in our rivers, lakes, and oceans. Clothing made from natural fibers is best.

Under a subheading entitled Looking Into the Future: “Most plastics are made from chemicals that come from oil, but oil causes pollution, and it will run out one day. Don’t worry, you won’t have to do without plastic. Future plastics will probably be made from natural materials…” called bioplastics.

If it were that easy, why haven’t we been doing that all along?

The Awful

There were a few parts in this book that I think contain extremely misleading information. One example is that the book suggests that plastic home items, such as doors and windows, are better because they last longer than wood. But sometimes those products contain chemicals such as formaldehyde, PFAS, or other chemicals banned in the State of California under as Proposition 65. That legislation requires labeling of such materials now, thankfully, as they have been tied to several diseases and types of cancer.

Here is another example:

If it weren’t for plastic, you’d have to work a lot harder at home…Modern nonstick saucepans are easier to clean than old iron or enamel pans.

Non-stick pans, particularly Teflon, contained dangerous toxins for decades. Those toxins have been linked to thyroid disorders, chronic kidney disease, liver disease, birth defects, and testicular cancer. Only in recent years has that chemical been removed from Teflon, and I’m not convinced that the replacement chemicals concerning human health have been studied thoroughly. Further, who knows what’s in the non-brand versions of Teflon cookware?

My last example is when the book mentions that credit cards, first issued in the 1950s, are made of plastic. “These plastic cards make it easier for people to buy new products from stores.” Oh my, that is Just. So. Wrong. No, credit cards delude people into buying stuff they don’t need and going into debt. Dave Ramsey and like-minded financial experts would probably drop their jaws if they saw that sentence. I don’t like being so critical, but talk about sending the wrong message to our children!

Photo of a person using a blue credit card on a credit card processor on a desk, next to a smartphone and a tape dispenser. Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash.
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash.

The right messages

Plastic is not evil, but the way we use and waste plastic is evil. If we want to protect our children, our health, and our environment, we’ve got great changes ahead of us to make. So let’s stick to books that teach our children the right messages about health and the environment.

I hope this was helpful. Thank you for reading!