Transition Town Letchworth: Why is recycling so hard?

TerraCycle boxes

TerraCycle boxes - Credit: Transition Town Letchworth

For some years now TTL has been supporting local organisations and charities who are part of the Terracycle collection programme. 

Terracycle receives pre-sorted waste from specific products and puts in place a process to recycle this waste, often by reforming the plastic into a long term product like garden furniture.

There are now a vast number of hard to recycle plastic waste items that can be recycled free through Terracycle schemes funded by the manufacturers of the products.

Letchworth organisations, such as schools, receive rewards based on the volume of waste sent and Morrisons have kindly hosted a set of collection boxes which feed into their collections.

The waste only has a value to Terracycle if it is not contaminated and is properly sorted. However the waste left in the Morrisons collection point is routinely heavily contaminated. This project is only viable long term if this contamination can be reduced.

A small amount of the contamination pulled out recently at the Terracycle area at Morrisons

A small amount of the contamination pulled out recently at the Terracycle area at Morrisons - Credit: Transition Town Letchworth

All recycling should be separated and placed in the appropriate collection box.

It is great that people are thinking about collecting and bringing in their recycling, but if the materials are left as a bag of mixed recycling, and are not sorted into the appropriate boxes, they become contamination rather than a valuable recyclable material.

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Some of the contaminating materials left in Terracycle, for example Tetra Packs, can go in our household recycling collection.

So a good first rule of thumb is that if an item can be recycled kerbside, it will not be part of a Terracycle recycling scheme. So making sure you understand the council's recycling programme is your first step to effective recycling.

Terracycle charity collections are sponsored by companies that produce the waste. So if a box is labelled crisp packets don’t place cracker or nut packets in it, despite them looking similar.

With limited volunteer time available for sorting materials, heavily contaminated collection boxes have to go into the general waste. So please only place an item in a Terracycle bin that matches the description on the box – “If in Doubt Leave It Out”.

For information and recycling tips on what is accepted via Terracycle at Morrisons visit and keep an eye on

We need a more circular economy and a reduction in waste, but in this interim stage, where Terracycle is a stepping stone to a better world, why not take a look at the plastic waste that you cannot recycle.

Could you change your purchasing habits to eliminate this waste? Items like fruit and veg no longer have to come in a plastic bag.