Ambassador Spotlight: TerraCycle
We're happy to share the stories and positive work of our Ambassadors in their own words. Our Be Zero Ambassadors bring life to the Be Zero Mission by sharing and inspiring ways to live simple and low-waste lifestyles.
By Be Zero Ambassadors: Jenica Barrett, Katie Mabardy, and Eniko Olah
You might have heard of an amazing new(er) company called TerraCycle. If you haven’t, in a nutshell, TerraCycle is a recycling company that recycles the ‘non-recyclable’. Some examples of things they can recycle in their Zero Waste Boxes include everything from the more everyday categories like coffee capsules and baby food pouches to the more extreme categories like used cigarette butts and even human hair (for a full list of their categories, click here). They are now a global leader in recycling hard-to-recycle waste and operate in 21 countries across the globe. Their business model is so interesting that we had to go back (see our first blog) and find out even more about how they operate and generate revenue.
In addition to their Zero Waste boxes that consumers can purchase (you can read about the Zero Waste Boxes in our last post), they also have brand programs where they partner with brands to offer consumers free recycling programs that are funded by the manufacturers of the brands. In some cases, only one brand is accepted (e.g. the Britta recycling program), while in other cases a specific brand will sponsor the recycling of any brand in a given category (e.g.Garnier sponsoring a recycling program for hair care, skin care, and cosmetic product packaging).
In both instances, whether the consumer purchased Zero Waste Boxes or the brands sponsor recycling programs, the waste materials are mailed to TerraCycle who then takes those inputs and sells the broken down recycled materials back to manufacturers. In this way, TerraCycle can provide quality recycled material as inputs in the creation of new products instead of sourcing virgin material.
This is the point in the discussion where someone might stop and wonder if this is really driving us in the right direction towards a circular economy. In other words, is TerraCycle really helping us to better the environment or are they just further fueling the consumption and usage of our disposable economy? Lauren Taylor, the Global Director of PR at TerraCycle explains, “It would be fantastic if we didn’t need to exist. If people were reusing. But we live in a disposable society so until that changes, TerraCycle is working to eliminate the idea of waste. To get people to think differently about waste. Because there is no such thing as waste - it’s all reusable.”
TerraCycle is also addressing some larger current environmental issues. One such issue we are seeing is plastic making its way to the ocean, which then concurrently results in beach plastic washing up on the shore. TerraCycle has been working with different organizations across the world taking the collected beach plastic waste and recycling it. The beauty of this approach is that these beach clean-up efforts are already happening but normally the collected materials are deemed non-recyclable and go into a landfill. Now though TerraCycle offers these groups the ability to send in their collected beach waste free of charge and divert this waste from the landfill
TerraCycle has also created a partnership with Procter & Gamble to reduce beach plastic. In 2017 TerraCycle and P&G collected 65 tons of beach plastic, thereby executing the largest beach plastic clean-up effort* ever recorded (by weight and volume). This beach plastic was then used to create Head & Shoulders bottles that contained at least 25% recycled plastic. This program was such a success that there are plans to roll this out to other brands and countries within the P&G portfolio.
At the end of the day, we as consumers are the ones with the buying power. We vote with every purchase we make. “The best way to stop it is to not buy it” says Lauren. Exactly. But in the meantime, isn’t it great that companies like TerraCycle exist?