He’s The Village Upcycle! Everyone Gets A…

by Cristina Foung

My favorite green product of the week: the drink pouch tote from TerraCycle

What is it?
You might think a tote bag is a tote bag. Not so! This tote is made out of 100% used drink pouches (think CapriSun and Kool-Aid) – and word on the street is most drink pouches are made from “polyester-reverse side printed to aluminum then laminated to polyethylene (a plastic polymer). Unfortunately, this packaging is not recyclable.”

Why is it better?
Let me start by explaining the title of this post. Sure, sure, you know the saying about the village bicycle. But what about upcycling? “To upcycle” is basically to take a waste product and turn it into something useful. Non-recyclable drink pouches are a perfect example. Once your little kiddo drinks the juice…what do you do with the package? Well, mostly those go to the landfill.

But Tom Szaky, founder and CEO of TerraCycle, is an inventive upcycler. Back in the day (meaning in 2001), Tom founded the company with a dream of creating products out of waste. So the “duh” of why it’s better is that all of TerraCycle’s products divert waste from landfills. Not only that, but these materials all have new life breathed into them.

Beyond that, TerraCycle donates $0.02 to a local charity for every pouch collected. And the program really seems to get folks pumped about doing something positive for the environment.

TerraCycle just got a great partnership with Kraft which will really help them expand their collection sites and divert more waste. For more on that, check out the press release below the fold.

There are lots of other really cool products from TerraCycle and I could wax poetical for quite some time about the brilliance that is Tom and his company. But I’ll spare you. Instead, I will tell you that over at Huddler, we’ve started running crowd sourced interviews. That means you get to post your questions, vote on them, and then have cool folks like Tom (or CEO of a renewable energy certificate company or the founder of Carrotmob) answer. So what are you waiting for? Get your questions in the mix (we’re only collecting them for a few more days)!

Where can you find it?
You can order the tote bag online from Target.com for $9.99. Well…you could anyway. They seem to be out of stock at the moment. Sad for those of us who don’t have them…but a great sign for TerraCycle!

Besides her green products column on Cleantech Blog, Cristina is a passionate advocate for green living at the Green Home Huddle at Huddler.com, which focuses on electric cars, energy efficient appliances, and other green products.

Press Release:

NORTHFIELD, IL, June 3, 2008: Kraft Foods, the number one food and beverage company in North America, today announced a new partnership with TerraCycle, an upstart upcycling company that takes packages and materials that are challenging to recycle and turns them into affordable, high quality goods. The partnership will greatly expand the number of collection sites TerraCycle has available across the country and will help prevent a significant amount of packaging waste from going into landfills.

Kraft will become the first major multi-category corporation to fund the collection of used packaging associated with its products. Several Kraft brands, including Balance bars and South Beach Living bars, Capri Sun beverages, and Chips Ahoy! and Oreo cookies, are now the lead sponsors of TerraCycle Brigades. These nationwide recycling programs make a donation for every piece of packaging a location collects.

“Sustainability is about looking out for future generations. Kraft is proud to partner with TerraCycle, an innovative company who has made it their mission to reduce the impact on landfills and to educate consumers on the importance of recycling,” says Jeff Chahley, Senior Director, Sustainability, Kraft Foods. “TerraCycle’s model of rewarding ’brigade hosts’ is a novel way of collecting packaging waste that would otherwise have been sent to landfills. It’s so cool to see trash turned into merchandise that’s unlike anything else on the market.”

Kraft Foods/TerracycleTM Partnership:

There are currently three TerraCycle programs for which Kraft is now the largest sponsor. To encourage more recycling, each program is free to individuals and organizations looking to participate and all shipping costs are paid. Once the used packaging items are collected, TerraCycle upcycles each material into an eco-friendly product because it’s made from waste! Sign up today at: www.terracycle.net/brigades.

The Energy Bar Wrapper Brigade collects used bar wrappers and donates two cents for each wrapper collected. TerraCycle has found a unique way to braid these wrappers into colorful, durable purses and backpacks. The wrappers also can be fused, making the wrappers very dynamic for upcycling.

The Cookie Wrapper Brigade collects used Nabisco cookie wrappers and donates two cents for each wrapper collected. TerraCycle will use proprietary technology to fuse the wrappers together into sheets of waterproof fabric, which then can be made into umbrellas, shower curtains, backpacks, placemats and much more. It is expected that 4,000 brigades will be established in the first year.

The Drink Pouch Brigade collects used drink pouches and donates to participating school or community group two cents for every pouch collected. The used pouches are then sewn into tote bags, handbags and other durable items that will be available as early as April 1st at several major retailers. Over 800 brigades have already been set up!

Each of these Brigade programs is diverting packaging waste from landfills and helping to raise consumer awareness about recycling. By encouraging people to rethink ’what is waste,’ TerraCycle is making it simple for consumers to have a positive impact on the environment. And with a monetary reward as incentive to recycle, the programs help schools, community groups, and non-profits across the country earn funds to support local activities.

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