flat lay of colorful plastic bottles, spray bottles and sponges

How Do Take-Back Programs Like TerraCycle & Recyclops Work?

Last Updated: April 22, 2022

We want to make it easy for you to recycle your Grove Collaborative products and packaging. That’s why we’ve partnered with take-back programs with a passion for sustainability. Read on to learn how take-back services work, plus a list of products they accept.

We all know how important it is to recycle, but the truth of the matter is that recycling services aren’t available for approximately 41 percent of homes in the United States. As consumers demand better sustainability practices from brands and retailers, take-back programs like TerraCycle and Recyclops are rising to the challenge of recycling the unrecyclable. Take-back companies recycle everything from cigarette butts and human hair to air filters and party supplies — the list goes on and on.

But what are these take-back services, and how do they work? We take an in-depth look at how TerraCycle and Recyclops — Grove Collaborative’s two main take-back partners — work and how you can start using their services to level up your recycling game.

What’s the difference between a recycling program and a take-back program?

Before we get into TerraCycle and Recylops, let’s talk about the difference between traditional recycling programs and take-back programs. You’re probably familiar with recycling programs: These are services offered by most cities to provide business and residential pick-up for recyclables like glass bottles and cardboard boxes. Once the recycling is picked up, it’s taken to a large recycling center where it's processed and sold to the commodities market to be turned into new products. Most cities have municipal recycling services with curbside pick-up available for businesses and residential areas.

Here’s the downside: Municipal recycling services aren’t perfect. Not all cities offer recycling pick-up services, and city-run municipal recycling programs can’t take everything — including these 11 things you think are recyclable, but aren’t. Some materials, like toothpaste tubes, certain cosmetics containers, and other non-conventional packages are too costly for recycling companies to break down. And that’s where take-back programs come in.

Take-back programs like TerraCycle and Recyclops aim to fill the gaps that municipal recycling programs leave behind. Some take-back services focus on recycling hard-to-recycle items, while others put their focus on offering sustainable recycling solutions for everyone, regardless of where they live.

Check out 10 household items you can reuse instead of toss in the trash.

What is TerraCycle?

TerraCycle’s motto is “Eliminating the Idea of Waste,” and the company means it. This self-described “social enterprise” aims to reuse, upcycle, and recycle packaging and materials that city-run recycling companies deem too costly and difficult to process.

TerraCycle was founded by Tom Szaky in 2001 while he was a freshman at Princeton University. Since then, TerraCycle has grown from its humble beginnings as a compost pick-up service to a take-back program that partners with scores of brands in 21 countries.

How does TerraCycle recycle?

TerraCycle’s scientists and material application specialists collaborate with universities to figure out the best way to recycle hard-to-recycle materials. This process includes how to break the materials down into their building blocks and find new ways to use them. From there, TerraCycle partners with third-party vendors to create a supply chain for collecting, sorting, cleaning, and recycling those materials.

Who does TerraCycle partner with?

TerraCycle has a ton of free recycling programs that take everything from used Solo cups to Swedish Fish boxes and dried-out Taco Bell sauce packets — and they’ll even recycle your dirty Tevas and empty Taki bags.

Grove Collaborative is proud to carry brands that partner with TerraCycle to provide free shipping for their hard-to-recycle items. Check out this list of brands on Grove that make it easy to be waste-free — you’ll often see the TerraCycle relationship mentioned on the product descriptions:

How to recycle with TerraCycle

Free recycling programs

TerraCycle has free recycling services for some of the brands the company partners with, like Acure and Weleda. All you have to do is sign up for any of the free programs TerraCycle offers, print off a shipping label, and send the used packaging you want to recycle. These programs are funded by the brands with which TerraCycle partners, which allows the company to offer these take-back services free-of-charge to consumers.

Zero Waste Box™ system

TerraCycle also has a Zero Waste Box™ system that comes in small, medium, and large options, plus pouches and pallets. You order and pay for the receptacle, fill it, send it back, and reorder a new box. There are a ton of options, too — candy wrapper boxes, boxes for recycling action figures, cigarette waste boxes, boxes for used-up art supplies, and an “All-In-One” box that takes literally everything.

What is Recyclops?

Recyclops is an innovative start-up that uses a powerful combo of community and technology to make sustainability the new norm. The goal is to provide affordable recycling services and hassle-free pick-up to people who don’t have easy access to recycling programs in their communities.

How does Recyclops recycle?

Recyclops is invested in providing jobs to local communities — and that’s where the company’s recycling process starts. Recyclops hires drivers who live in your area to pick up clean recyclables from your doorstep and take them to the nearest Recyclops recycling facility. From there, the recyclables are sorted and processed into new materials or remanufactured for use in various industries.

How do I recycle with Recyclops?

Recyclops offers affordable pick-up programs in over 100 cities across the US. After you sign up for weekly or bi-weekly services, you’ll receive a supply of Recyclops bags to help keep your recyclables clean and easy to transport. To find out if Recyclops is available in your city, or to request services in your area, check out Recyclops’ list of locations.

How does Grove’s partnership with Recyclops work?

Grove is thrilled to partner with Recyclops to offer free-of-charge recycling services for the packaging of Grove Co. products. All you need to do is shoot us an email at recycle@grove.co, and we’ll send you a prepaid return label. Once you’ve got your label, mail us your empty Grove Co. goodies, and we’ll take care of the rest!

What Grove Co. products does Recyclops take?

  • Glass concentrate bottles and other small glass packaging
  • Reusable sandwich bags
  • Flexible plastic pouches
  • Silicone sleeves from glass spray bottles
  • Superbloom glass bottles

Read more from Grove