Halloween is only a few days away. With that will undoubtedly come lots of candy – and lots of waste. That means it’s time to investigate what to do with Halloween leftovers. There are several options, and I stumbled upon one in particular, from Terracycle, that I thought was really interesting. That said, let’s review all the options…
I started out looking for ways to recycle Halloween candy and found that there is a network of dental offices that buy back extra Halloween candy to send to U.S. troops through Operation Gratitude. I like the idea but wanted to go one step further and address the waste from all those wrappers!
If You Can’t Recycle – Upcycle
I decided to use my Earth 911 iRecycle mobile phone app to see what options are out there for recycling candy in my area. The app is designed to help you figure out how and where to recycle just about anything. Not only did the app work, it introduced me to a whole new world of upcycling, which is defined by Wikipedia as “the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value.”
When I clicked on household items in the app, I got a list of categories from cleaners, to glue sticks, to bicycles, and even candy wrappers. When I clicked on candy wrappers, the app returned one result: Terracycle Mail-in Recycling. Terracycle offers national programs to collect previously non-recyclable or difficult to recycle waste and turns it into something else. As it turns out, most candy wrappers should not go in regular recycling bins. Terracyle doesn’t just recycle; they upcycle.
How It Works
Here’s how it works: you sign up for a free account and join the Candy Wrapper Brigade program. (By the way, there are 40 of these Brigades, and you can join as many as you like to collect everything from food packing to office supplies and personal products.) When your waste is ready to send in, you can download a free shipping label from your Terracycle account. When Terracycle checks your shipment in, points are awarded to your collection location. The points can be redeemed for a variety of charitable gifts or for a payment of $0.01 per point to the non-profit organization or school of your choice.
The Terracycle team takes your waste and turns it into a variety of new products. The products are available online and at a wide range of retailers including Wal-Mart and Target. According to the website, another cool innovation of the program is that “when you’re done with a TerraCycle product, you can put it back in the original Brigade collection program and get credit for the waste a second time.”
The program isn’t currently accepting any new collection locations, so I called to ask how communities can contribute their wrappers to accounts that already exist. The helpful Terracycle representative I spoke to advised me to connect with other Brigade program participants on the Terracyle Facebook page, since privacy restrictions prevent them from revealing existing account locations. The page is packed with opportunities to connect with others and give back – all with waste that can be diverted from landfills.
Most candy wrappers are difficult to recycle due to the blend of materials, most of which are non-plant-based. Upcycle those wrappers instead to protect the environment, save time, energy, and resources at recycling plants, and contribute to other worthy causes!