“Nothing needs to go to landfill. We’re about finding solutions for as many types of waste as possible,” says Denise Barnard, Director of Communications at TerraCycle Canada. I spoke with Denise to better understand the company behind the ever-increasing line of products I’ve been noticing around me. Upcycling is now a recognizable term for using every aspect of waste to create another product. How has the Canadian market been responding to the TerraCycle line of solutions and products? If the company’s growth here is any indication, it seems that Canadians are ready to help change the concept of garbage from waste to useful.
TerraCycle Canada has quickly grown since it opened its doors in 2009, working with over twenty national partners. Founded by Tom Szaky in 2002, the company has made the Inc. 500|5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies in America for the fourth year in a row. The Canadian office, based in Toronto offers national programs called Brigades® to collect previously non-recyclable or hard-to-recycle waste.
How does it work?
Groups or individuals participate by selecting specific waste stream(s) thereby joining a Brigade. For example, there’s a Chocolate Wrapper Brigade – sponsored by Nestlé Canada, or a Cigarette Waste Brigade. Most Brigades provide free shipping and a donation for garbage collected. The material is then processed at a TerraCycle facility where it can be either upcycled or recycled. Tote bags are upcycled from chocolate wrappers, while cigarette buds are recycled as a component in warehouse pallets.
How does it work for TerraCycle?
“The concept is centered around sponsoring waste,” explains Barnard. “Companies like Garnier, or Huggies partner with TerraCycle to create the program – a Brigade.” She notes that companies see the partnership as a way to raise consumer awareness, and for expanded marketing opportunities. TerraCycle provides regular reports to its partners on the amount of waste collected, what products the waste is recycled or upcycled into, and the kind of organizations collecting for the specific Brigade – also giving insights into consumer groups.
Eliminating the idea of waste
“It is about finding your recycling solutions for everything. The idea that nothing should be seen as waste.” Barnard provides an explanation to the company tag line. “The average population in Canada recycles through municipal services. We are stepping in and filling a void where there is need, by turning non recyclables through upcycling and recycling into new products.”
The company has an R&D team in the US that works with businesses looking to use the recycled materials. Partners work with TerraCycle to generate ideas for specific products. By continually looking for cradle-to-cradle solutions for everyday products, TerraCycle is a hub of innovation.
Collecting points for community giving
“Participants earn points for every piece of waste they send us, which are then redeemed as dollars to a charity of choice,” says Barnard. Aside from charitable gift programs with partners such as Care Canada and Evergreen, participants are able to choose their own. “Collectors can channel funds into their own causes. There is creativity in what participants can do with the funds raised.” Barnard provides an example of waste collection drives at schools that can then raise funds for a special project.
Clearly a win-win situation: the more participants, the more waste being diverted from landfill, and money being raised for charitable causes. Engaging employees, and the community-at-large about innovative ways to reduce waste seems like it’s too good to be true. Yet, TerraCycle is proving there’s money in waste and its continuous growth is all the proof I need.