Our TerraCycle Experience

We have long been told that recycling is good and landfills are bad, that we should separate our plastics and cans from the regular trash, that we need to “go green” (a phrase that has become about as common as global warming), but do we really know what it all means? Why it’s important?

In a book written by Tom Szaky, founder of TerraCycle, within the past 100 years, the amount of waste humans produce has increased by 10,000%. And about 25% of that waste also ends up in our oceans. That’s about equal to an area 34 times the size of Manhattan, covered ankle-deep in garbage. It’s a total of about 19 billion pounds of plastic waste that ends up in our oceans every year. To put it bluntly, by 2050, there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish.*

All of these statistics lead to an alarming realization that if we don’t do something soon, our world will be altered forever. Companies like TerraCycle are helping to change that. TerraCycle is an innovative recycling company located in Trenton, New Jersey and is the international leader in recycling the unrecyclable.

BrandFirst had the opportunity to visit TerraCycle, learn more about their business and explore how we can work together in the future. As the impact of packaging on the environment continues to evolve, we feel a responsibility to help our clients bridge the gap between package design and sustainability.

What does TerraCycle do?

Tom Szaky, a student from Princeton University, founded TerraCycle in 2001. Through his mission of Eliminating the Idea of Waste®, TerraCycle has grown into a global leader of repurposing hard-to-recycle waste. The business reuses, up cycles, and recycles waste instead of incinerating it or depositing it into a landfill.
During our visit, we had the opportunity to tour the offices at TerraCycle. Everything from wall to floor was crafted with the imaginative reuse of materials, highlighting the creativity and innovative thinking that TerraCycle represents. After the tour, we also had the chance to sit down and learn more about post-consumer recycling and sustainability.
TerraCycle has begun sourcing what they call “storied plastics,” which are post-consumer recycled plastics collected by TerraCycle that have a “story of origin” behind them. These materials include everything from chip bags, candy wrappers and drink pouches to glue sticks, cigarettes and cosmetics. Whatever the source might be, these materials carry a strong narrative and allow brands to share a unique story of origin with consumers.

Over the past few years, several major CPG companies have made commitments to using this content in their products. In 2017, P&G sponsored a collection of beach plastics to bring awareness to the growing issue of marine plastics mentioned earlier. So far, the company has integrated 25% of the materials into their Head & Shoulders bottle. This bottle is currently sold in Europe and has been so successful that P&G plans on introducing 25% recycled plastic across 500 million bottles sold yearly on its hair care brands. Much of the ROI came from incremental shelf space, marketing claims about the package and PR coverage.

TerraCycle, Branding, & Package Design

These “storied plastics” give a unique opportunity for promotion and drives the value of a brand; this is where the team at BrandFirst is looking to step in and create new possibilities within branding, packaging, and design.

Our visit to TerraCycle gave us deep insight into how the materials, structure and design of a package can impact the way it may be recycled. With this knowledge and our future plans to work with TerraCycle, we can offer current and future clients the option to utilize post-consumer recycled materials in their packaging while also communicating a story of origin that piques consumer interest in the brand. It is our goal to help our clients and their brands make a difference, both environmentally and socially, while driving marketing efforts and ROI.

Innovation requires this kind of thinking. In order to evolve our concepts of how to reuse waste, we must find innovators, partners and clients that have a desire to work together towards this common goal. Join us and help our efforts! We welcome any questions, feedback or interesting stories of your own.