MO.com is proud to partner with The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC):
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the country’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The Y.E.C promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment and provides its members with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of a business’s development and growth.
TerraCycle, Inc. is an international upcycling company that takes difficult to recycle packaging and turns it into affordable, eco-friendly products. Tom Szaky, CEO of TerraCycle, founded it in 2001. TerraCycle is the world’s leader in the collection and reuse of non-recyclable post-consumer waste. TerraCycle works with over 30 major brands in the U.S. (and in a growing number of other countries) to collect used packaging and products (Frito-Lay chip bags, Mars candy wrappers, Capri Sun and Honest Kids juice pouches, pens, toothbrushes, etc.) that would otherwise be destined for landfills.
TerraCycle repurposes that waste into new eco-friendly materials and products that are available online and through major retailers. The waste is collected through TerraCycle’s Brigade programs, which are free fundraisers that pay schools and non-profits for every piece of waste they collect and return.
MO: What made you so passionate about recycling?
Tom: I became passionate about recycling when I realized the value that is in what others consider “waste.” People are missing out on valuable resources because they’re overlooking what’s in front of them and writing it off because that’s the old habit. Having grown up in Communist Hungary where nothing was thoughtlessly discarded, I learned from a young age that value in all materials.
MO: Can you explain how you get the inspiration for some of your products? Do you have a team of designers, are there many people involved in creating the products?
Tom: We have a team of product designers, headed up by Tiffany Threadgould, our “Chief Design Junkie.” The design team spends a lot of time experimenting with different types of food packaging, making samples, and even designing different spaces including our offices and our courtyard. They’re also in talks to design a restaurant and another office space. That said, we have used ideas or concepts suggested by our consumers and people within the company who are not designers.
MO: The innovative new program you are launching early next year is amazing. Will you explain this program to our readers?
Tom: The program we are launching aims to amplify our mission of eliminating waste. We’re providing solutions for every type of trash in the home, instead of just the normally recyclable stuff. It’s different than your standard recycling programs or solutions because it’s a one stop deal – TerraCycle can take regular trash, organic trash, non-recyclables, recyclables, and even electronics and batteries. This program will be “pay-as-you-go” whereas our other programs are free. But this provides a solution for literally 99% of household waste.
MO: You have recently launched the first online game based on upcycling called Trash Tycoon. Can you tell our readers more about this game?
Tom: The game reflects the real-life TerraCycle Brigade program and also allows players to understand different types of recycling and plastic processes that TerraCycle uses (such as injection molding). Players are responsible for keeping their “town” clean and can make recycled and upcycled products (TerraCycle’s own!) as they earn points and complete goals. Brigade participants can earn extra bonuses for the TerraCycle Brigade and earn extra gifts and prizes that will be only available to TerraCycle Brigade participants. We like to think of it as Sim City meets Farmville meets the TerraCycle recycling program.
MO: What processes do you have in place that are making it easy for you to expand into other countries?
Tom: The thing about expanding a recycling and upcycling company is that all countries have waste, and all countries need a solution for it. Even if there are other programs in place, there is so much trash everywhere that generally, more than one solution is needed, especially when you consider the entire globe.
We also work with brands that reach around the globe, such as L’Oreal, BIC, Nestle and Kraft Foods. While each country has its own entity of the brand, it’s helpful to have the examples set by our other countries when we’re looking to expand.
MO: What is one tip for upcycling that you can share with us?
Tom: Everything can be upcycled into something useful. You just need to look beyond your standard perception of an object.
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