From Flip-Flops to Slides: Terracycle’s Mission to Eliminate Waste

When recycling legislation was introduced in New York City in 1989, people regarded the lawmakers as leaders who were genuinely invested in trying to cut down garbage waste, but now, almost 25 years later, the city has lost its status as leader in waste reduction. In fact, according to an article in the New York Times, the city is “is going backward: it now recycles about 15 percent of the waste collected by the Sanitation Department, which is primarily from residences, down from a peak of 23 percent in 2001.” Environmental advocates claim the downturn in recycled waste is directly related to the mayors 2002 cuts to curbside collection of recyclables; city officials say otherwise. But whatever the reason, it’s evident that our landfills are brimming with garbage that is not biodegradable, garbage like candy wrappers, flip flops, curtain rods, clothes, sneakers, pens, flower pots, wooden utensils, and anything that the city will not recyclable. So what can you do to decrease the ever-growing mounds of garbage?

Create or join a Terracycle (or upcycling) brigade.

Terracycle is a private company headquarted in Trenton, New Jersey, whose mission is simply to “eliminate the idea of waste.” It was founded in 2001 by two Princeton freshman, Tom Szaky and Jon Beyer, who created the company as business plan contest sponsored by the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club. The plan was to take dining hall waste and turn it into something usable; by the end of the summer, they had their first investor, and soon after the company moved into its first office. Within 10 short years, the company went from accepting only food waste, which it turned into compost, to accepting over 40 different types of waste, which are subsequently turned into other products—skittles bags, playgrounds from flip-flops, and hundred of other products.

For more information on how to create or join a Terracylce brigade visit Terracyle’s website.

If you want to repurpose things by yourself, below are some wonderful sites with innovative ideas:

Twisted Sifter-this site has some really interesting ideas

Upcyclingit–this one is a bit funkier, but still fun to browse

the–more clever and fun things

We’d love to see what you’ve done with old shirts, bottles, doors, curtain rods, or anything else that you considered garbage.

Please let us know if you want to start a brigade.