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What Is TerraCycle with Founder Tom Szaky

by Rebecca Veksler on October 26, 2021

What is TerraCycle?

TerraCycle® is a social enterprise Eliminating the Idea of Waste®. In 21 countries, we tackle the issue from many angles. We have found that nearly everything we touch can be recycled and collect typically non-recyclable items through national, first-of-their-kind recycling platforms.

Leading companies work with us to take hard-to-recycle materials from our programs, such as ocean plastic, and turn them into new products, and our new Loop platform aims to change the way the world shops with favorite brands in refillable packaging offered with convenience and style.

With your help, we’ve diverted millions of pounds of valuable resources from landfills all over the world, and we’re just getting started.

 

1. Tell us about TerraCycle - What is your mission!
We are reinventing the future of how we consume, with a mission to eliminate the idea of waste. As a global innovator in the circular economy, our specialities lie in finding solutions for recycling hard-to-recycle materials. Our programs collect and recycle almost any waste stream such as babies nappies, cigarette butts and gum. We then turn waste into new products, like the world's first fully recyclable shampoo bottle made with beach plastic.

More recently, we launched the reuse platform “Loop”, a global circular system that enables brands, retailers and consumers to transition from single-use disposable materials to reusable, durable packaging. Loop is targeting a launch in Australia in 2022.

 

2. Tell us about how TerraCycle works, why is it so special?

TerraCycle is a world leader in the collection and repurposing of complex waste streams. While almost all waste is technically recyclable, it is not always cost-effective to recycle it through traditional collection methods which is why councils don’t accept certain materials. This is where TerraCycle comes in: we specialise in hard-to-recycle waste streams, tackling the economics of recycling by forming partnerships with brands to sponsor regeneration and re-use solutions to divert rubbish from landfill.

Outside of our free national recycling programs, consumers or businesses can purchase a TerraCycle Zero Waste Box, which can recycle tricky waste like face masks and PPE, blister packs, cigarette butts, beauty products - you name it!

Our Global Foundation has developed equipment and programs to remove litter from waterways all over the world.
Through a worldwide collection network, TerraCycle has created the largest global supply chain by volume for recycled beach plastic.
And our regulated waste division manages the collection and disposal of universal and hazardous waste.

Our newest initiative, Loop, tackles the problem of single-use plastics by working with brands and retailers to offer household products in reusable packaging that is developed by brands.  When the packaging is empty, it is  returned to Loop to be cleaned, sanitised and used again.

3. What are some of TerraCycle's core values?

Transformational. Responsible. Collaborative. Adaptable. Entrepreneurial.

 

4. Tell us your biggest learning when it comes to running TerraCycle?

TerraCycle was launched almost 20 years ago to eliminate the idea of waste.

We learnt early on that doors opened when we could show brands that working with us was good for business as well as the environment. 

We also realised a long time ago that we had to go further than recycling. That’s why we’ve developed Loop, a multi-stakeholder coalition that allows consumers to buy anywhere and return anywhere. Re-use is just beginning. The more products and the more retailers, the more the cost becomes competitive with the way we experience products today.

 

5. How do you implement sustainability into your daily practice, what makes you a solmate?

 

Letting go of disposability and learning to see garbage as a resource is key: Try not to buy one thing each day. Try to recycle something new each day. Look for ways to re-use and repurpose things.
I work in an office that is furnished with cast-offs. Our desks are old doors, our carpet is a patchwork of carpet remnants, our artwork is made from collected waste. My individual office is screened by empty two litre bottles. All of our offices around the world are outfitted in the same way.