I’m a TerraCycle dropout. I had convinced the principal of my sons’ school two years ago to start the juice pouch recycling program. I told him I’d bring the pouches home, and the boys and I would send them off to TerraCycle. We’d save the planet and earn our school some money at the same time.

Can I tell you it was disgusting? Kids threw half-drunk pouches in the bin. They never took the straws out. There was lots of other stuff in the bins that didn’t belong in there. It was sticky and smelly. We had to work on emptying the pouches outside, and bees attacked us. We gave up.

I felt like such a failure. Here I am, a leader in my small town when it comes to all things green, and I couldn’t hack recycling juice pouches. Obviously, all over America, other people were able to handle it. But not me. I proved to be a wimp.

It’s been a while since I’ve checked out what TerraCycle has been doing, partially out of shame, but someone’s tweet led me there recently. What I saw made me hopeful that I may be able to redeem myself. Terracycle has added plenty of other items that can be collected and turned into new items, and the majority of them are not sticky, smelly and attractive to bees.

Next school year, I just may attempt another TerraCycle program with one of the following items that would otherwise end up in a landfill. Here are the ones I may suggest to my principal.

Cookie wrappers – Nabisco and Keebler cookie wrappers get turned into lunch boxes, back packs and binders. Organizations receive 2 cents for each cookie wrapper turned in.

Energy bar wrappers – Clif and Odwalla bar wrappers get turned into items like mini note pads, bike pouches and duffel bags. I think the Clif Bar holiday wrapper bow is particularly clever. Organizations receive 2 cents for each cookie wrapper turned in.

Lunchables – Pencil cases and lunch boxes are two of the items that can be created from Lunchables waste. Again, 2 cents for each package sent in is given to the organization.

There are other items that TerraCycle accepts that either aren’t open to new organizations at the moment or wouldn’t be a good idea for my particular school: I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter tubs, candy bar wrappers (see the speakers above made from M&M's wrappers), writing instruments, waste from Colgate toothpaste and toothbrushes, Malt-O-Meal cereal bags, plastic individual milk bottles, Scotch tape dispensers, and wine corks.

Are you involved with collecting items for TerraCycle? How has your experience been? 

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Terracycle keeps growing
More than a dozen wrappers and packages from food can be turned into useful items.