Trenton-based TerraCycle is making sustainability a mainstream movement

TerraCycle Solo Colgate Include USA Loop Arm & Hammer RB Gillette Herbal Essences Gerber Swiffer L.O.L Surprise
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans generate over 250 million tons of trash annually, or 4 to 5 pounds per person per day. Only about 25% to 30% of it is recycled; the rest is incinerated or buried in landfills, where it can often end up polluting the environment and leaching into the soil and groundwater supply.   It’s a reality that TerraCycle finds unacceptable.   Founded in 2001 by Tom Szaky, then a student at Princeton University, Trenton-based TerraCycle is a social enterprise on a mission to eliminate the idea of waste. “We pick up where municipal recyclers leave off and recycle the things they don’t, including coffee pods, cigarette butts, chip and snack wrappers, clothing, shoes, contact lenses and much more,” said TerraCycle North American Public Relations Manager Sue Kauffman. “We collect over 150 waste streams and are adding more every day.”   Different towns have their own rules for recycling, often driven by economics. “If recyclers can sell the processed waste at a profit, they’ll recycle it – if not, they’ll either incinerate it or divert it to a landfill,” she said. “Thanks to over 200 million individuals actively recycling through TerraCycle, we’ve recycled over 7.7 billion pieces of waste, diverted millions of pounds of valuable resources from landfills all over the world, and donated nearly $45 million to charity to-date.”   A Range Of Recycling Solutions   Recycling 97% of the waste it receives and composting the remainder, TerraCycle promotes the opportunity for consumers to “reuse, upcycle, and recycle” in a variety of creative ways:  
  • Free Recycling Programs – Sponsored by corporate partners such as Arm & Hammer, Colgate, Gerber, Gillette, Herbal Essences, Solo, Swiffer and other well-known brands, TerraCycle’s free recycling programs enable consumers to recycle specific branded products or entire categories of products at no cost. “Simply go to our website, pick a recycling program, register and ship the targeted waste stream to us using the free shipping labels provided online; based on the weight of the shipments, recyclers earn ‘TerraCycle points’ that can be converted to cash and donated to schools, charities and nonprofits of their choice,” said Kauffman, who noted that points can yield big dividends. “Through the ‘Free Recycle Playground Challenge’ that Colgate runs in conjunction with ShopRite each year, for instance, the school that collects the most oral care waste will win a new playground constructed from the recycled plastic they sent in and valued at $50,000,” she said. In addition to being free and easy, “it’s exciting to see schools starting their own Green Teams, learning about sustainability and participating in our recycling opportunities to earn more points.” Among new items recently added to their recyclable list are the packaging associated with L.O.L. Surprise! dolls and products by Reckitt Benckiser (makers of such brands as Mucinex, Enfamil and MegaRed). “In addition, in association with Gillette, we recently added disposable razors to our list, which represents the first time that there’s been an outlet to recycle disposable razors, blade cartridges and plastic packaging in the U.S.,” Kauffman said.
  • Zero Waste Boxes – Through this program, consumers can purchase everything from a pouch to a pallet to reuse difficult-to-recycle waste that can’t be recycled through one of TerraCycle’s free programs or through regular municipal recycling. Boxes are specific to a variety of different product categories, from alkaline batteries and light bulbs to printer cartridges, paint brushes, plastic bags, shoes, vitamin bottles and dozens more options. “Once consumers send their waste in to be recycled, it will be weighed, processed, shredded, melted into pellets and ultimately sold to companies who use it to make other things,” Kauffman said.
  • Loop – Launched in January 2019, Loop is a groundbreaking e-commerce platform that’s reminiscent of the milkman of yesteryear. Through the exclusive program, consumers can receive the products they use every day in durable, reusable containers that were designed for Loop by partners such as Proctor & Gamble, Unilever, Nestle, PepsiCo, Coca Cola and others. When finished, consumers return the packaging for cleaning and refill, completing a no-waste loop. “While TerraCycle recycles plastic and other items to make the Earth a cleaner place, our new Loop program strives to not create waste in the first place,” Kauffman explained. “Response to this program has been so strong that we’ve already expanded it to other states beyond New York and New Jersey.”
  Offering Creative Circular Solutions   Headquartered in a refurbished facility where contents are made largely from recycled items – “my desk is an old door and office partitions are crafted from old soda bottles,” Kauffman said – TerraCycle has tapped into a growing need and is helping to make sustainability a mainstream movement. Following heightened media attention concerning the magnitude of America’s waste, as well as China’s 2018 decision to restrict imports of the megatons of trash they’d been processing/recycling for us for decades, “American consumers are definitely paying more attention to this issue than ever before,” Kauffman said. “The best way to elicit change is by voting with your dollars and buying from companies with a strong sustainable process. In the case of the companies that have partnered with TerraCycle, we’re able to work together to offer creative and efficient circular solutions to waste that don’t include the landfill.”       Nearly 20 years since its founding, TerraCycle now operates in 21 countries, has won more than 200 awards for sustainability, and was named No. 10 in Fortune’s Change the World list, out of 52 companies. For Kauffman and her 300 colleagues, working at TerraCycle is a labor of love. “We’re all extremely passionate here, creativity is so high, and new ideas are blossoming every day,” she said.   “It’s wonderful to celebrate Earth Day in April and we celebrate it for the entire month,” Kauffman concluded, “but the way we see it at TerraCycle, Earth Day should be every day.”   TerraCycle is located at 1 TerraCycle Way in Trenton and can be reached at (866) 967-6766 or by visiting www.terracycle.com.