Terra Cycle Zero Waste Box Logos 300px

Reimaging Recycling for the Future

TerraCycle

6. Clean Water and Sanitation 9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities 12. Responsible Consumption and Production 15. Life on Land

Overview

TerraCycle believes that waste can be recycled and in some cases even reused. The company’s innovation comes from being able to collect, sort, and process waste that would normally be sent to landfills. This ensures that products such as used sauce packets, toothbrushes or used juice pouches find a new purpose all while reducing landfills. They do recycling differently by not only reusing waste but also creating new products from them that can be sold to the public.

Authors

Cassie Causey

Cassie Causey

Abner Reyes

Abner Reyes

TheresaMarie Lisanti

TheresaMarie Lisanti

School

St. John's University

St. John's University

Professor

Charles Wankel

Charles Wankel

Innovation

With a process that involves Zero Waste boxes, the company is able to recycle materials and keep them out of landfills. The company works to eliminate the idea of waste by providing ways to recycle everything that we touch in our daily lives. Veronica Rajadnya, from the communications department, stated, “TerraCycle has proven that pretty much everything can be recycled.” They provide a way to recycle waste that is normally hard to dispose of. For example, in all TerraCycle offices around the world, you can find recycled waste in an interesting fashion and put it to good use. All the offices have been decorated with repurposed waste where some walls used to partition are made out of vinyl records or soda bottles. This unique and eccentric use of decoration is an inspiration to the employees in the office and reminds them of their mission.

Tom Szaky founded the company with the goal of reducing waste by asking companies and individuals to pay for recycling costs. This idea seemed crazy at the time, but since he created the innovation using this business model in 2001 it has taken off. He created an easy-to-use recycling model that has helped millions of people across the world collect and recycle. Additionally, it has met responsible consumption goals and has raised money for charities around the world.

Reimaging Recycling for the Future

Finding New Ways To Upcycle

Inspiration

Founder Tom Szaky was a 19-year-old student at Princeton University when he came up with the idea of TerraCycle. He was inspired when he was in Montreal with friends and had seen them feeding worms leftover scraps of food and fertilizing their plants. TerraCycle was born from that moment when Tom’s passion for eliminating waste was sparked. Tom believed that there was no such thing as garbage. All items could be reused in any form and provide new meanings and the idea of finding new ways to recycle our waste was the motivation needed for TerraCycle to be born. During our interview, we asked, “So what are some ways we can give ‘trash’ a meaning and a new purpose?” Ms. Rajadyna said, “​​Innovate and experiment with new ones (services) that make eliminating waste super easy, and an irresistible way to do good.” TerraCycle continues to strive to expand globally with the intention to spread the interest in recycling.

Overall impact

The impact TerraCycle’s innovation has on the business is the growth of the company globally with the many services they offer for all types of recycling. As stated on TerraCycle’s website, “To date, over 202 million people in 21 countries have helped to collect and recycle enough waste to raise over 44 million dollars for charities around the world.” From our interview with Veronica, we are able to see the passion for the company that resonates in their employees and reflects in their work. “It’s a company of problem-solvers, more than environmentalists, which many of us happen to be.”

TerraCycle has partnered with many different companies throughout its time. These partnerships have inspired more companies to participate in recycling and even change some of their products to be more eco-friendly. TerraCycle has recently launched its Loop program which is a global platform for reuse. For example, TerraCycle recently launched its Loop program with Ulta Beauty to eliminate beauty waste. The products are sent in recycled, reusable, zero-waste packaging. When you are done with the Loop product, you just pack it up and schedule a pick-up and it is cleaned, reused, and recycled in replace of cardboard boxes and bubble wrap.

The impact TerraCycle has on society is the offering of jobs. This company employs over 500 people to help make the mission of this company possible. Veronica mentioned that there are over 90 positions waiting to be filled at TerraCycle and the bigger the company grows, the more jobs are created. They also impact society by focusing on change rather than making a profit. Although they are a for-profit company, they keep their prices at a reasonable price in order to just support the growth of the company. TerraCycle is very mission-focused and even offers a range of free programs to help complete the elimination of waste.

TerraCycle’s mission of recycling equals less trash and plastic in the ocean, which allows more time for our environment to thrive. Veronica states, “It is estimated if things don't change, we’ll see more plastic than fish in the ocean (by weight) by 2050.” This is concerning because the world heavily relies on the oceans for food, transportation, oxygen, and many more. With our oceans overflowing with garbage, we can expect our food source and oxygen levels to deplete and have a snowball effect on other disasters.

The short-term effects of recycling would be less trash in our local landfills and more products being made from that recycled material. With more products using recycled materials to package their products, we can see an improvement in the landfill overflows and less garbage around. The change to recycled materials will not happen overnight but there have been some partnerships like one with P&G to introduce their first plastic shampoo bottle made out of recycled waste picked up from beaches. The long-term effects would be less trash in the world’s oceans and a greater improvement in our environment. In addition, the economy is also impacted positively because of the creation of jobs as the company grows and possibly expands to other countries.

While it is good for the environment for everyone to recycle, the need to keep trash out of our environment is far greater than one company can handle. It requires everyone’s participation, but with through TerraCycle's partnerships, it is evident that the work this company has done has made an impact on everyone and the environment. TerraCycle is also affiliated with a non-profit organization, TerraCycle Global Foundation, which works hard to collect plastics and trash from the polluted waterways in Thailand. The impact this company makes is evident as it strives to help everyone, from the environment to all communities.


Business benefit

The business model of TerraCycle is unique and there are not many threats or competition for the company. This company’s profits are steadily increasing as it expands and the partnerships with large, well-known companies that are beneficial to its growth. In 2004, TerraCycle had over $77,000 in profits. Through the years, the company significantly grew to a reported almost $20 million in 2016. Between then and current, we can expect the company to increase its revenues. With the increase and growth, TerraCycle can continue to impact additional countries and employ more community members to assist. The company can also take advantage of new recycling technology that is poised to make an impact in the industry. Lastly, as global initiatives seem to be shifting to a “green” world, we believe the company will become a key player in meeting goals that help the world become more sustainable all while generating revenue.

Social and environmental benefit

To recognize the hard work and continued efforts of TerraCycle, over 200 awards have been awarded to the company. Through their work and expansion, there are over 180 waste collection centers nationally along with additional partnerships with various companies. They also partner with other organizations around the world that also work towards the same mission. TerraCycle’s devotion to social and environmental benefits is evident and unquestionable.

Interview

Veronica Rajadnya, Writer, Communications

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TerraCycle

TerraCycle

Trenton, US

Business Website: https://www.terracycle.com/en-US/

Year Founded: 2001

Number of Employees: 501 to 1000

TerraCycle is a purpose-driven, privately held company, based in Trenton, New Jersey. It works with third-party vendors to recycle all waste including universal waste, E-waste, battery waste, and IT hardware. This waste can be collected through families sending in their trash, volunteering and also corporate offices hiring the company. After the waste is recycled, it is then sold to companies where they can produce many different products or packaging for their products. The company works diligently to “eliminate the idea of waste” by and often partners with other large companies to get their message across. They are known for creating awareness of trash through art and creativity.