Founded by Tom Szaky, TerraCycle is changing the way businesses handle their product waste. TerraCycle’s mission is to eliminate the idea of waste by using a new recycling process. TerraCycle operates in 21 countries with hundreds of recycling platforms that lead us closer to a functional circular economy. To date, TerraCycle has already diverted over 7 billion products from landfill globally.
A Princeton University drop-out, Szaky has a passion to change the way people view waste. The idea came to him while recycling food waste at the university and turning it into fertilizer. A political refugee from Hungary, Szaky was inspired by the idea of working with capitalism, rather than against it.
General Manager of TerraCycle Australia & New Zealand, Jean Bailliard, says TerraCycle repurposes products and their packaging to keep waste out of landfills and manage our Earth’s resources. “We want to get people to view waste as something useful, something we can circulate back into the economy. We need to be using it over and over again, and thus saving more of the world’s precious resources for future generations.”
Bailliard says that a better question than ‘what can TerraCycle recycle?’ is ‘what can’t TerraCycle recycle?’ “Around the world, we recycle everything from complex items like cigarette butts, chewing gum, and even dirty diapers, through to simpler ones such as chip bags and cosmetic waste. We also focus on how to integrate unique waste streams back into consumer products like turning ocean plastic into shampoo bottles,” says Bailliard. Other products made from recycled products include garden beds, park benches, and playgrounds.
We all know what kerbside recycling looks like, but what’s the difference between weekly, government-funded recycling versus what TerraCycle does? Bailliard says it comes down to basic economics. “It simply costs more to process items that are complex and made of several different materials that are difficult to separate, than the processed material is worth. The reason why we’re able to recycle these items is down to our brand partners who sponsor the programmes, thereby filling the economic gap in the process,” says Bailliard.
Colgate collaborates with TerraCycle to recycled their product waste. It is then recycled and repurposed into useful products. Last year the Colgate Community Garden Challenge encouraged New Zealand schools to collect as much oral care waste as possible. Winners from West Rolleston Primary school received a garden bed set made from recycled oral care packaging.
Another one of TerraCycle’s brand partners is Nestlé. They specifically work on recycling the Nescafé Dulce Gusto capsules used in their at-home coffee machines. Nestlé New Zealand Head of Marketing, Fraser Shrimpton says their focus is to make all their packaging reusable or recyclable by 2025. Their capsule recycling partnership with TerraCycle is one of the many steps to get there. “To recycle Nescafé Dolce Gusto capsules through the program, Kiwis simply visit TerraCycle website, sign up for free and start collecting Nescafé Dolce Gusto coffee capsules in any cardboard box,” says Shrimpton.
Collectors must seal their capsules in a plastic bag or ensure the capsules are dry before placing them in their collection box. When full, they log into their TerraCycle account and download a free shipping label. From there they stick the label to the box of waste and drop it at their nearest post office, free of charge.
For each shipment of more than seven kilograms of used capsules, collectors earn 2 points or $0.02 per capsule. This money goes to a school or non-profit organisation of their choice.
E-waste – the new kid on the block
TerraCycle’s latest partnership with Vapo and Alt. to recycle e-cigarette waste is particularly exciting. With more electronic waste appearing within our capitalist society, a solution to this is needed more than ever. Bailliard says that e-waste is perhaps the final frontier for recyclers as it’s relatively new to them.
So how do they do it? It starts with research and development of a recycling process in the U.S. This information is then passed onto third-party recycling vendors that TerraCycle work with. Bailliard says that this process allows them to have “ultimate flexibility,” meaning they can utilize any facility they require.
Co-owner of Vapo and Alt. New Zealand, Ben Pryor, says it’s the first programme of its kind. “Late last year we announced that Kiwis could drop off their Vapo and Alt branded e-cigarette waste at any Vapo store for recycling. In March this year we extended the programme so vapers could send their vaping waste for free through the post.”
Pryor says they don’t want to make the same mistake the tobacco industry has. “Let’s not forget that cigarette butts are the single greatest source of ocean trash. 5.7 trillion cigarettes worldwide are smoked annually. Cigarette butts are the number one man-made contaminant in our oceans,” says Pryor.
Vapo and Alt will donate one dollar towards the charity Sustainable Coastlines for every kilogram of vaping equipment sent to TerraCycle.
Want to know more?
Head to TerraCycle’s website for more information if you want to get involved as a business or an individual to start recycling your ‘out of the ordinary’ products..