Posts with term Tom-Blog X

Back to the Future: Remember the Milk Man?

Last week I was drinking a soda, and thought about the recently announced PlantBottle, the fully recyclable, 30% plant based bottle being rolled out by Coca-Cola. Then I thought, why bother? Why are these people spending such enormous resources trying to invent their way out of a hole?

Revolution in a Bottle: How TerraCycle Redefines Green Business

My book, Revolution in a Bottle, hit the streets this week. It is a quick read that is meant to flow more like a novel, less like a business book. It follows the story of TerraCycle from our beginnings in my dorm room, shoveling maggot filled organic waste to creating products we sold to Wal-Mart and other major big box retailers, getting sued by Scotts and creating “sponsored waste” programs to upcycle branded waste. It also offers insights on how we approach media and pursue new opportunities. Here’s an excerpt from the introduction: While it has not always led to the “right” decision, I have learned that I must always trust my gut. Sometimes this has led to hiring people without requisite experience but who have turned out to be gems as they developed their art. In some cases, I’ve opened doors to people and situations that have been problematic, but through each adverse experience, the company grew stronger. As one pathway we were pursuing became blocked or looked less promising, another would always open. As I think over the roller coaster of TerraCycle’s early history, I can see that it would have been impossible to predict or plan how to develop TerraCycle to the place where it stands today. The trick was to be ever vigilant in seeking opportunities, and to be ready to jump on them if they felt right inside and consistent with core mission, even before they could be well thought out. And, I have learned, by picking up the shovel (when we made our first years’ batches of worm poop), to actually working the iron and sewing machine as we made our first prototype upcycled materials and bags, that I could ground an idea in real time, and shortcut speculation about hypotheticals.

Could In-Sourcing Labor Be a Solution for Rebuilding American Manufacturing?

For decades, we in the US have watched jobs--especially manual labor--be exported overseas to countries like China, Vietnam, and India, where people work for significantly less money. In general, I've noticed that wages drop by an order of magnitude, moving from developed ($10/hour) to developing counties ($10/day) and then by another order of magnitude when moving from developing countries to third world ($1/day). These are rough numbers, but they do underscore my point. Beyond issues of equity and environment, one of the major negatives to manufacturing abroad is transportation (namely, the costs and time). It stinks having to wait six to eight weeks for your goods to make it from China on a boat. So are there alternatives? Or do we have to just accept a global manufacturing system? Tariffs have been used to protect domestic workers--but what if we offered negative tariffs--that is incentives--for goods to be manufactured in the US?

TerraCycle Announces Initiative to Collect Non-Recyclable Waste at Big Box Stores Nationwide

We are extremely excited to announce here on Treehugger, for the first time ever the next phase of the TerraCycle national, non-recyclable waste collection system in the front of major retail stores across the country! For more details, click below the fold. Phase 1 of of our process involves groups collecting specific packaging waste and sending it to us, postage paid. The program has been growing since mid-2007. As you may already know, you can go to www.terracycle.net and sign up to collect a whole range of waste streams. We donate $0.02 to $0.06 per unit of waste you collect to your favorite charity. The program is currently in more than 20,000 locations (mostly schools and civic groups), engaging more than 3 million Americans nationwide. Our plans are to double this collection capacity in the next year or two. Phase II involves permanent collection points for non-recycable packaging in the front of stores where the products are sold. We are partnering with a number of major big-box retailers (such as Petco, OfficeMax, Home Depot, Best Buy, and more) to bring collection systems into their stores nationwide.

Who Is Responsible for a Better World? Government, Corporations or Us?

Here is a continuation of a conversation I am having with a friend, Melissa, in the CSR department of a major US consumer product good company. The question that we have been grappling is one of responsibility. While the finger can be pointed at everyone, who really is in charge? Government, Corporations or us? Please join our dialogue as the point of this post is not to theorize about the answer, but to start the discussion. Here’s what Melissa had to say:

Reduce or Recycle: What's Better for the Environment?

Stonyfield Farm is a pioneer and respected leader in the world of sustainable business, . A model for any company truly concern with CSR practices. Yet their yogurt cups are non-recyclable, what do these green gurus know that we don’t? Since the mid 1980’s, Stonyfield Farm has been conscious of their packages’ environmental impact. Initially focusing on recyclability, Stonyfield Farm eventually realized that there are many other factors which influence the environmental impact of a package throughout its life cycle.

Will Packaging Taxes Solve Waste Issues, or Escalate the Problem?

Many environmentalists would say that packaging taxes (like bottle bills) are the solution to low recycling rates and the packaging waste problem. The way these programs work is that they charge packaging companies a “tax” per unit produced as a “deposit” and then give that deposit back to the consumer when they return the package to a center (could be a supermarket or a recycling center). Currently there are bottle bills in over 10 states and a number of Canadian provinces. While all manufacturers should take full ownership over the entire lifecycle of their product (especially their packaging) is forcing “bottle bill type” laws the most optimal solution? In certain Canadian provinces (such as BC), there are such programs for even non-recyclable packaging waste including waxy milk/orange juice cartons and drink pouches. The program is a government partnership and has shown 40-45% increases in the total number of containers collected in BC. Bravo!

Will Recycling Survive the Recession?

The recycling industry is in a state of panic, hit by two forces beyond its control. The first problem is the economy (go figure). Demand for consumer products is down; retailers are focusing on price versus value. China (the manufacturer of the world's products) is not ordering recycled polymer. Indeed, a large number of factories in China are closing down due to lack of demand. On top of this, as recycling is a commodity industry, the price of plastic is directly related to the price of gas, and gas prices are low. If you make virgin plastic, your costs are directly dependent on energy costs. However, if you are a recycler, your costs are not in the making of the plastic, but in the collection and sorting of it--and these costs are not as dependent on energy costs. Therefore, recyclers are faced with a problem that may be beyond a solution: They are forced to collect and incur costs (due to their municipal collection contracts) on a material that is worth 50% of what it used to be months ago and they cannot sell it anyway since there is less demand. The result of all of this is predictable: recycling centers are closing at a record pace. My prediction is that if nothing changed in '09 the recycling industry could die! (Too bad you can't short recycling).

Will the Down Economy Hurt Quality?

I'm noticing a recurring direction of today's retailers in light of the economic downturn we currently find ourselves in. People are addicted to consumption, but have less money to spend. The solution that most big-box stores are adopting is to reduce the prices of the products they sell. In order to accommodate, manufacturers have to reduce the quality of their products. The net effect is that we, as consumers, are being given lower quality products that will not last as long, or be as effective.

Recycling and Reuse: Are Financial Incentives Necessary?

Call me cynical (and you’d be right), but I think that humans as a species have a couple of basic tenancies. We want life to be better and want to do less to make it so. In other words, we want more comfort and convenience at less cost. That is why we live in a consumer based society with disposable products. We also focus almost entirely on short term gain vs. long term gain. There are obviously exceptions to these rules – like our friends the Mennonites – but in general I think this holds true.