There is a company with a unique business model that may be working with a school in your neighborhood to recycle some unique items. The company is Terracycle and they began asking schools across the nation to collect 20-ounce plastic water bottles years ago. The schools were paid a modest amount and the bottles were cleaned and refilled with worm manure fertilizer, then sold in stores like Walmart’s garden area and Home Depot.
Today, the company has expanded this trash-to-treasure philosophy. They work with schools to take a wide array of hard-to-recycle items and then they find ways to reuse or recycle the materials. The schools reduce their waste, which saves them money, and in most instances, gets paid for the unwanted packaging.
In order to offer this concept to as many schools as possible, Terracycle, has created separate groupings of items known as Brigades and schools sign-up to participate in different groupings. Here is a partial list to give you a flavor of the groups of items:
Drink Pouch Brigade – accepts a wide variety of empty layered drink containers. They are washed and reused, turned into pencil containers, purses, 3-ring binder covers and more.
Yogurt Brigade – accepts empty yogurt cups, yogurt containers, and yogurt lids for reuse and recycling into plastic lumber, soap dispensers and more.
Cookie Packaging Brigade – accepts cookie wrappers, cookie bags, individual cookie bags and inner plastic trays.
Candy Wrapper Brigade – accepts individual candy wrappers, large candy bags, and multi-pack candy bags to be recycled into lunch bags and more.
Gum Wrapper Brigade – accepts paper gum wrappers, foil gum wrappers, plastic gum trays, foil gum trays, plastic gum packages, cardboard gum packages, gum multipack bags, cardboard gum boxes, plastic gum dispensers to be recycled into backpacks, plastic lumber and more.
There are many additional products Terracycle has offered over the decade since Tom Szaky submitted this idea as a college student in a 2002 Princeton Business Plan Contest. The company has grown throughout the economic turmoil and continues to demonstrate how green-based businesses are sustainable job creators.