TerraCycle makes affordable, eco-friendly products from a wide range of different non-recyclable waste materials. With over 50 products available at major retailers like Walmart, Target, The Home Depot, OfficeMax, Petco and Whole Foods Market, TerraCycle is one of the fastest growing eco-friendly manufacturers in the world. Our hope is to eliminate the idea of waste by finding innovative, unique uses for materials others deem garbage.
Founded in 2001 by a 19 year old Princeton University freshman named Tom Szaky, TerraCycle started as an organic fertilizer company and has grown into a multi-category, eco-friendly powerhouse. Tom’s dream was to find way a new, more responsible way of doing doing business that would be good for the planet, good for people and good for the bottom line! TerraCycle has won many awards and accolades for its environmentally responsible business model from Inc. Magazine, Red Herring, The Home Depot, The Environmental Business Journal, The Social Venture Network, Zerofootprint and many other highly regarded organizations.
TerraCycle also runs free national collection programs that pay non-profits and schools TerraCycle has exclusive partnerships with major CPG companies such as Kraft Foods, Frito Lay (Pepsi), Stonyfield Farm, Mars Wrigley and many more. The partnerships create free collection programs that pay schools and non-profits nationwide to collect used packaging such as drink pouches, energy bar wrappers, yogurt cups, cookie wrappers, chip bags and more! The collected materials are upcycled into affordable, high quality products ranging from tote bags and purses to shower curtains and kites. In addition, TerraCycle works with these partners to find innovative uses for all of their waste streams and, by making products from these various waste streams, TerraCycle prevents 1000’s of tons of waste from going to landfills.It even says on the website, "Get paid for trash." At first thought, the idea of turning throwaway packaging into "products ranging from tote bags and purses to shower curtains and kites" may seem like a good idea. I mean, this is material that is going to go into the landfill, anyway. Why not just save the materials from going into the landfill and derive more utility from them? Well, here are my issues with the concept, and with the paragraphs (unedited) that I copy-pasted from the website:
1) The "upcycled" products (I have one - a pencil/pen case that was given away at the Forum) advertise in full force products like Kool Aid, Oreos and Pepsi. This sends messages and advertises to younger people that consuming products created by these companies is "good" and "cool" and maybe even "good for the environment." (Remember that post a few days ago about Coke encouraging people to recycle?) The creation of such products in no way reduces the amount of material that will continuously be extracted from our earth to produce the packaging for these artificial "foods." It will only encourage people to continue to buy food that comes in packaging that just can't go away.
2) How many tote bags and shower curtains and pencil cases do we need? The pencil case that they gave me is pretty durable - I expect it to last me a lifetime and more. Oh right, it is made from sturdy plastic that will take decades to ever "go away." So, say we come to a point where 6 billion plus pencil cases are made, and everyone in the world gets a pencil case, Barack Obama's daughters included, will TerraCycle keep producing the pencil cases? Well, as long as people continue to drink Kool Aid, more pouches will be discarded, and more pencil cases will be made. Hmm, the trash just seems to be cramming into our space above ground, now...
3) This is further exacerbated by the fact that this company is totally for profit. It is in TerraCycle's interest that people drink Kool Aid, eat Oreos, and continue to increase diabetes and obesity in the world.
But there may be something to learn from TerraCycle. The website claims that there are more than 10 million people that are "trash collectors." (TerraCycle relies on the consumers themselves to sort out the packaging such that it is hyper-separated into streams.) To get that many people to do something in concert is laudable. But in the end, it seems to me that the company is of the same ilk as Pepsi, Hollister and Coach - make people think that they are cool, hip, concerned, aware and with the times by making them buy your product, to fill the pockets of a few.