Terracycle Introduces Its Recycling Model To Australia
Terracycle is a US company with an interesting history and approach to recycling . It recently introduced its recycling model to Australia, and Communications Manager, Ausseela Thanaphongsakorn, answered some questions for The Switch Report.
When did Terracycle commence operations in Australia?
TerraCycle launched in Australia in February 2014. New Zealand was the first country for TerraCycle to begin its operations in this region (July 2013).
TerraCycle Australia is headed by General Manager Anna Minns. The Communications Manager is Ausseela Thanaphongsakorn.
How do you choose the waste streams that your service?
The way our programs work is we rely on brand partners to sponsor them. At the moment there are four brands sponsoring these categories of waste (oral care, cleaning products, cigarettes and Nespresso coffee capsules) under our programs called Brigades. We approach as many brands as we can, and we will run programs for any waste streams that brands will fund.
Do the sponsors set the limits on their level of support for the program? Is this reflected in the number of Brigades that you allocate for each waste stream?
Usually yes. We control the spend by putting a limit on how many locations can sign-up, and then if the program is very popular we will create a wait-list for people to join.
What proportion of waste is handled (and transformed) directly by Terracycle and how much is handled by external partners? (In Australia, and worldwide if the figures are available)
We work with many third parties. Our shipping partner in Australia is Australia Post. We then use a third party to check-in & store the waste, and the different waste streams are then processed by our plastics processing partners and sold to manufacturing partners to make new sustainable products.
How do you go about matching a waste stream with a partner to process that waste?
First we build volume, then we look for processors with the capability to recycle our collected waste streams in a process managed by our global R&D team.
When do you expect to be selling products in Australia?
People in Australia can already purchase products that are made from materials we collect in other countries through our official online retailer.
What benefits do the sponsors gain from participation with Terracycle?
Sponsors can claim that their products or packaging are nationally recyclable, and they can divert their post-consumer waste from landfill. TerraCycle Brigades is also a fantastic business meets community initiative centred around education and sustainability. The main points of collecting, solving and benefiting from waste are key to sponsorship participation.
What are your plans for expanding the range of waste streams you accept in Australia? How far can you go and what are the main limitations?
TerraCycle believes that anything can and should be recycled. In the US we recycle anything from jewellery, chewing gum and nappies (we are even about to launch a program in the US to recycle feminine hygiene products!)
We hope to be collecting as many waste streams as possible in the next few years. We even hope to bring to Australia our zero waste model for households that we recently launched in Canada. We don’t see any big limitations.
Many of the products available in the US are “upcycled” (e.g. backpacks and bags). Do you plan to make similar products in Australia?
Yes, if our brand partners would like to make these items. These items are able to be purchased from our online retailer now, upcycled from our brand partners waste from around the world.
How important is the points system and payments to non-profit organisations in achieving success?
We find the main incentive for people to engage in our programs is to recycle. The points system provides an extra incentive though, and supports our triple-bottom line: planet, people & profit.
Are most Brigades directly associated with the causes they support (e.g. schools)?
Usually they are, especially if it is a school.
People are often not very good at following the rules on what is and isn’t accepted by different recycling schemes. What level of compliance does Terracycle experience? Do you end up with a lot of the wrong sort of waste and what do you do with it?
We have very high rates of compliance for all of our programs (around 98%). The reason is the people that sign-up to our programs are really motivated to recycle and want to get it right! Most Brigade participants understand the way TerraCycle Brigades work and TerraCycle provides ample resources such as clear accepted waste guidelines, ‘Collect Store and Ship Guides’ and videos to outline what can be sent in. As much as possible it is important not to contaminate the waste streams but in the instance of minor contamination the impact is minimal.
Can the Terracycle model make significant inroads into the vast quantities of waste we all generate?
TerraCycle believes the best solution is to not buy in the first place. TerraCycle is like a bandaid or pill one takes to address a big problem with practical action by business and community, it is not the solution. But we hope we can help people look at “waste” in a different way!
In the US, Terracycle accepts any type of waste through its Zero Waste boxes. Is this service planned for Australia?
We look to introduce a similar program very soon!