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Ep 37: You Wouldn't Believe What You Could Recycle

Today on the podcast, I'm talking with Tom Szaky, founder and CEO of TerraCycle. TerraCycle are an innovative recycling company and global leader in recycling hard-to-recycle waste, offering free recycling programs funded by brands, manufacturers and retailers around the world to help you collect and recycle your waste.

Tom Szaky, Terracycle Founder Buy now
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When I first became interested in toxin-free living, my concern stemmed from what I was putting in and on my and my family's bodies. From there I began to look at our home, realising that while it's one thing to lead a toxin-free life inside the house, it's of equal (if not greater!) importance to reduce the waste we were outputting as a household too.

This brought me to waste. It's no secret that Australia (and the world) have a serious waste problem. In fact, over the last 100 years, human waste has increased by more than 10,000%. The solution? Recycling. Choosing compostable and biodegradable products is a really great place to start, as these products can be completely broken down by bacteria, but what about those hard-to-recycle items like computers, mobile phones and even cigarette butts?! It turns out, everything is recyclable- you just need a bit of vision. This is where Tom Szaky and his company, TerraCycle, come in.

Tom, who joined me live from New Jersey, believes that just about everything we touch can be given new life through recycling and upcycling. Where there's a will there's a way, so there's absolutely no reason NOT to recycle!

What is TerraCycle and how does it work?

Tom started TerraCycle because he wanted to use his entrepreneurial mind to create more than just a profitable business- he wanted to change the world and make it a better place. Knowing just how big an issue waste is, globally, Tom set out to find truly innovative ways to improve our global waste problem.

TerraCycle is a waste management company with a mission to eliminate the entire idea of waste, rather than just managing it. Things that were traditionally difficult to recycle, like coffee capsules and toothbrushes, were of particular interest to Tom, as there were very few programs in place to help the public recycle these items- meaning they were ALL ending up as waste. TerraCycle is working to reduce global waste by making it simple to recycle (or upcycle) hard-to-recycle items in three different ways.

Firstly, TerraCycle works to secure funding from brands, manufacturers and retailers in order to develop free recycling programs for the public. For example, TerraCycle secured funding from Colgate and were able to develop a program that allows consumers to safely and effectively recycle their dental products. In a circumstance where TerraCycle are unable to secure funding for a free solution, they give consumers the option to pay to recycle their goods.

Secondly, TerraCycle work to integrate waste back into new products, for example creating new packaging for products out of plastic found in our oceans and waterways.

Thirdly, through the Loop division of the company, TerraCycle are working with brands to get them to recycle their own packaging- shifting from a single use consumption model to a reusable consumption system. Loop will be coming to Woolworths in Australia this year, with the program giving everything from personal care, cosmetics, food and beverage packaging BACK to the brands for them to reuse. This means there's minimal impact on consumers- we can keep purchasing the brands and items we love, with the comfort that the brand will be recycling behind the scenes!

So, what is and isn't recyclable?

Through the TerraCycle model, just about everything is recyclable- contact lenses, cosmetics, balloons and writing instruments are just a handful of the things that are free to recycle through TerraCycle.

Recycle

The reason this often isn't the case comes down to economics. Often there is technology available to recycle a material, however big businesses could potentially lose money in doing so- it's cheaper for them to forgo recycling altogether.

The solution to minimising the waste you and your household contribute is to limit your consumption as much as possible. If you must purchase something, try to choose an item with no packaging. Not an option? Look for biodegradable packaging. Still no luck? Visit TerraCycle.com. Where there's a will, there's a way!

Something that really shocked me was how recyclable (or not!) glass is compared to plastic. In some cases, clear, rigid plastic is a more sustainable option than glass! In some cases, recyclers won't even take glass, while some plastics can be recycled again and again! This really comes down to the colour of the packaging. When recycling a coloured product (like a coloured plastic shampoo bottle or a dark amber glass beer bottle), these materials can ONLY be recycled into a new item of the same or a darker colour. Where possible, choose a clear option!

How is Nourished Life working with TerraCycle?

I'm so proud to work with TerraCycle, and many of you are already familiar with our recycling program. Nourished Life shoppers are able to send their empty products back to me at Nourished Life, and we give those packages to TerraCycle to recycle.

TerraCycle

How does it work? Take a toothpaste tube, for example. When you send it back to us, TerraCycle will pick it up and aggregate it, ensuring they've collected enough to really work with. Next, they'll separate the components into different categories. From there, TerraCycle will recycle those components, sometimes adding in other recyclables, to get the material into a form that can then be used to make other things. It's all about breaking it down into the purest possible raw material.

Want to get involved and minimise the waste your household produces? Unsure what to do with those hard-to-recycle items?! Visit terracycle.com and search for collection programs in your area.

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