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Saturday, November 14, 2009

A New Take on Trash

Recycling has evolved beyond placing your paper and bottles out on the curb for pick-up. Many beautiful pieces, from jewelry to artwork, clothing to new fangled devices, have been made out of recyclable material. Things like glass bottles, tin cans, and cardboard have become the silk and leather for today’s eco-conscious yet luxury-seeking consumer. While these recycled items can be beautiful and very green, some people have taken a different approach to reuse. Non-recyclable materials thus have become the subject of a lot of creative thinking. Link Most products come in packaging. While the glass jar of juice can be easily recycled by a municipal recycling center, the juice-box in your child’s lunch cannot. While the bottle of ice-tea you’re drinking can be recycled, the plastic label around it might make it to the recycling plant, but only to be discarded upon arrival. Enter TerraCycle. At TerraCycle, the liability of discarded wrappers and non-recyclable juice boxes become their greatest asset. They work to product consumer goods out of discarded consumer waste. They take these items and, through a great deal of innovation and creativity, turn them into something new and fabulous. Starting as a worm-composting company that sold their product in re-used soda bottles, TerraCycle has expanded their capabilities. While the items they produce are more diversified now, the basic idea of turning waste into consumer product has stuck around. The now make produces such as backpacks, messenger bags, and totes in addition to many school oriented items such as pencil cases and binders. Beyond their fashion items, TerraCycle also produces a range of eco-friendly garden and cleaning supplies. Even after being sold in Wal-Marts and the Home Depots all over he US and Canada, TerraCycle has not forgotten the products that got them started. They still sell the “worm poop” product in used water bottles, but today their offerings are more specific, such as cactus and orchid plant food. In addition to advertising their line of products on their website, they also make it very easy for you to either purchase that product online or to find it in a local retail store. When TerraCycle decided that they wanted to expand, they did it. The now paying schools and other organizations sums, generally amounting to about $0.20 for each item, to encourage them to sell TerraCycle their used products. By only collecting certain products from certain brands with which they have partnerships, TerraCycle creates a huge incentive for schools to participate in their program. Why throw out an item that could be sold and re-configured into something stylish and sustainable? Additionally, TerraCycle makes it very easy as a school to sign up for this now popular program. By looking at something that was doomed for the landfill and seeing opportunity, TerraCycle has become a model for what can be done with some non-recyclable items and a great deal of creativity. Image Credits: TerraCycle, Live Paths


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