Some of us are feeling a tad guilty about eating the kids' Halloween treats. Well, here's a way to atone — we can recycle all those candy wrappers through an ongoing partnership between Mars candy and the eco-friendly company TerraCycle.

“It's a free collection program for all kinds of candy wrappers, regardless of brands, regardless of type,” said TerraCycle public relations manager Stacey Krauss.

In a phone interview, Krauss told us how easy it is to help both the planet and the charity of your choice by joining the “candy wrapper brigade.” Simply sign up on the TerraCycle website and designate which nonprofit you would like to receive the funds or points earned.

tote made from candy wrappers; Credit: TerraCycle

tote made from candy wrappers; Credit: TerraCycle

Anyone — individuals, families, community groups or businesses — can participate. The program is especially popular with schools, which can designate themselves as the beneficiary.

Since the program was launched in 2009, some 5.7 million wrappers have been collected, with $116,000 going to charities. Mars covers shipping costs and provides the donations.

TerraCycle was founded in 2001 by Tom Szaky, then a Princeton freshman. (The rest of us can now bow our heads in shame for what we did freshman year.) The company's goal is to find ways to re-purpose or recycle items that usually end up in landfills, converting them into over 1,500 products, some sold at Walmart and Whole Foods Market.

There are two ways TerraCycle handles the waste. One involves reusing material to make another product, a process sometimes called upcycling. (For example, tote bags can be made from candy wrappers, by fusing and stitching them together.) The alternative is shredding and melting the wrappers, before turning them into plastic pellets that can be used to make products like plastic lumber, lunch coolers, and trash cans.

“The applications for our plastic products are almost endless,” said Krauss.

TerraCycle collects nearly 50 kinds of waste, from food and drink containers to household items (such as triggers from cleaning bottles) that can't be recycled in most community programs. Several food and beverage companies have joined the effort, including Frito-Lay (to take in chip bags), Capri (drink pouches) and Kraft (cheese packaging.)

And speaking of candy consumption, kids have another reason to brush their teeth: TerraCycle has teamed up with Colgate to keep toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, floss containers and mouthwash packaging out of the trash.

Krauss described the TerraCycle programs as especially meaningful for children: “When you're recycling things like drink pouches and candy wrappers and then you see them made into another product, it kind of tells the whole story in one simple visual.”

Speakers made from candy packaging; Credit: TerraCycle

Speakers made from candy packaging; Credit: TerraCycle

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