These Innovative Recycling Programs Are Changing the World

In an effort to change the way we think about recycling, these organizations go beyond putting bottles and cans into a recycling bin. Taking things a step further, these companies are turning recyclables and waste into useful and life-enhancing products and services.


TerraCycle first entered the realm of innovative recycling by turning drink containers into jewelry, and the company was at the forefront of what we now refer to as “upcycling”—Terracycle logotaking an object that others might regard as junk, and transforming it into something useful, beautiful, or valuable.

Since then, TerraCycle has become a company dedicated to finding real recycling solutions for items deemed hard to recycle. The company makes it easy for individuals and institutions to recycle unconventional items ranging from manufacturing waste to plastic coffee pods with its free recycling programs. Committed to furthering the zero waste movement, TerraCycle also offers the Zero Waste Box, which can be purchased through major retailers or on the Zero Waste Box website. The Zero Waste Box is available in a variety of sizes designed to hold varying types of waste, based on your pre-selected preferences.

Additionally, Terra Cycle facilitates municipal waste management programs that include curbside recycling of everyday waste.

Ample Harvest

Food waste is a huge issue, even though so many people face food insecurity every day in the US. The USDA estimates that 100 billion pounds of food is wasted each year. This Ample Harvest logonumber translates to about one pound of food per person per day. Ample Harvest seeks to address the issue of food insecurity by distributing unused produce to various food banks and other organizations.

Food waste is not only a matter of people purchasing more food than they can eat. Food can also go to waste because of cosmetic blemishes, improper storage, and insect damage. Another source of food waste is from gardening. While gardening is a great way to shrink your environmental footprint, sometimes gardeners allow their crops to decompose or they simply discard what they can’t eat or store. Ample Harvest encourages gardeners to donate their uneaten produce to local food banks in an effort to not only reduce waste, but also to provide nutritious meals to food bank customers, who often have little access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

Food pantries across the country are always in need of fresh produce, and Ample Harvest strives to fill this void by assisting millions of gardeners through education on how each person’s excess produce can help the community. Signing up for the Ample Harvest program is free, and the program is available to both home gardeners as well as commercial growers. Food pantries can also register to add themselves to the organization’s list of approved donation sites. Currently, Ample Harvest serves nearly 8,000 food pantries in all 50 states.

Playback Clothing

While giving clothes to organizations such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army is a great way to keep unwanted or unworn clothes out of landfills, Playback Clothing takes this idea Playback logoa step further by recycling common household waste and turning it into clothing.

It may not seem like a plastic bottle could ever be turned into a t-shirt, but that’s exactly what Playback Clothing does. The company uses unique recycling processes in order to bring its apparel to life, and its eco-friendly clothing is available in a variety of styles, colors, and patterns. Individuals can purchase clothing directly on the Playback Clothing website as well as learn more about the processes that help make their upcycled garments possible.

Clean The World

If you’ve ever stayed at a hotel, you know that soap is provided for hotel guests, but these toiletries are often only partially used. Some hotel guests take these items home as a souvenir, yet many more leave them at the end of their stay. Hotels do not reuse these Clean the World logoproducts, but instead replace them with unopened packages and subsequently discard the half-used toiletries. To address this waste, Clean The World is an organization dedicated to collecting and recycling toiletries from hotels and other businesses.

Clean The World collaborates with major hotels to collect these unused and partially used products and distribute them in areas of the world that are plagued by diseases stemming from poor sanitation and little access to hygiene products. The need for the organization’s service is great, because many of these diseases are the leading causes of death for small children in underdeveloped nations. The health and mortality risks for hygiene-related diseases can be drastically reduced with proper hand washing and hygiene education. This is an extremely important initiative, as the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that millions of lives could be saved if those in need received hygiene education and had access to the necessary products. In addition to saving lives, donating these products keeps them from ending up in landfills. To date, Clean The World has succeeded in its mission by donating more than 30 million bars of soap in 100 international locations.


The programs and organizations detailed here are shining examples of the good that can be done for the environment when people work hard to come up with unconventional solutions to solve complex problems. As more and more people embrace the zero waste philosophy, initiatives such as these will become even more common.