A renegade gel top found on a recent trail run prompted a manifesto about reducing accidental top drops. My penchant for reducing waste increased when I learned about TerraCycle—not surprising given my history with recycling.
I’ve been known to pull recyclables out of the garbage to save them from their inevitable landfill death. I pick up trash in my neighborhood and recycle what I can. I’d rather forfeit a PR than run past trail trash. For years, I’ve been taking non-curbside recyclables to a community recycling processor. Since my local drop-off center doesn’t accept everything, spotting that gel top was what you might call a fortunate accident because it led me to TerraCycle.
TerraCycle is an upcycling and recycling company with an innovative solution to waste. The New Jersey-based company collects difficult-to-recycle packaging and repurposes the material into new products. The operation is organized into brigades or categories, such as candy wrappers, personal care products, and other miscellaneous packaging. Many of the brigades are corporate sponsored, but all are brand agnostic; any brand’s packaging can go into a brigade.
Athletes should rejoice to learn their used gels and wrappers’ life doesn’t have to end at the finish line, but can keep moving forward thanks to TerraCycle’s gel packaging and energy bar wrapper brigades (this is how ultrarunner Scott Jurek reduced waste during his 2,189-mile run on the Appalachian Trail this past summer). The programs are free to participants thanks to sponsorship from GU Energy Labs and CLIF Bar, respectively.
I recently caught up with Albe Zakes, TerraCycle’s Global VP of Communications, to learn more about the company and how my used gels get a second chance at life.
How did TerraCycle start?
The company was founded in 2001 by Tom Szaky, a Princeton University college dropout. At a time when many of his peers were developing apps and websites to get rich quickly, Tom chose a different path. A social entrepreneur at heart, he wanted a business that could make money but also benefit the planet. The result was an organic fertilizer product made from liquified “worm poop” packaged in used soda bottles (recycled bottles were used because he couldn’t afford to buy new ones). In 2007, the company shifted its business model to tackle the roughly three billion product packages that annually end up in the landfill. [Continue Reading]