It is no secret that our planet is approaching a critical turning point in our existence and unless there was a breakthrough over the weekend which made it possible to move all of the world’s population to a new planet, we will have to start treating this one a bit better and it starts with YOU.
The only way we will be able to right this ship is if all individuals living on this planet start focusing on the slogan we have all heard before…REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE.
Reducing and Reusing are easily done by being observant of what you are buying and using. For instance, my microwave gave out on me last week and instead of shopping at a retail store for a new product (which comes along with a lot of packaging, shipping the product from wherever it was manufactured, producing new materials for the product; which all adds up to a larger carbon footprint) I chose to shop at a local thrift store. Not only did I save a lot of money by purchasing a barely used microwave; I also did my part to REDUCE the amount of trash going into a landfill and subsequently REDUCED my carbon footprint, supported a small local business, and obviously REUSED a microwave that was destined for the landfill.
RECYCLING is the most difficult of the three (how many times have you looked on the bottom of a plastic container to see if it is recyclable in your city?), since you can’t recycle everything… until now.
Introducing TerraCycle, a New Jersey based company founded in 2001 by a Princeton University freshman selling organic fertilizer in reused soda bottles. TerraCycle is recognized as one of the fastest-growing green companies and is also considered “the world’s leader in collection and reuse of non-recyclable, post consumer waste,” as they state on their website.
TerraCycle collects and recycles things that were typically difficult or impossible to recycle through normal recycling channels. TerraCycle has over 40 “Brigades” which are groups dedicated to recycling a specific product (some Brigades include, cigarette butts, diaper packaging, drink pouches and solo cups) which you sign up for, begin collecting, and print a UPS shipping label once you have collected a predetermined weight of the recyclable product. Many of these Brigades are free to participate in as they are sponsored by companies that produce the products. TerraCycle takes social responsibility even further by allowing you to acquire points in relation to the amount of recycling you collect and donate the money to charity.
Not all of their services are free, however. TerraCycle offers a program which they call a Zero Waste Box, which allows you to collect and recycle everything from your home and office. The company offers category separation boxes, which you fill with a specific product (for instance action figures or batteries), and once the box is filled you ship it back to TerraCycle via UPS. If you don’t want to be bothered by separating out all of your recycling products, you can purchase a No Separation Box which you fill with non-hazardous, non-recyclable material and ship it back to TerraCycle for processing.
Some of the products TerraCycle makes from recycled materials include: flower pots, plastic lumber, plastic pavers, bike racks, park benches, and garbage and recycling cans. The company also “upcycles” recycled drink pouches into messenger bags, pencil cases and backpacks, to name a few.
To learn more about TerraCycle, check out their Wikipedia page.
Be part of the solution and not the problem.
Chad R. Puschel