Pieces of Trash Saved: 5832, Dollars Raised: $116.64, Life Lesson Made Easy: Priceless

We’ve all heard the phrase “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle”, right? Well, how about “Upcycle”? A company in Trenton, NJ called Terracycle is taking trash to new heights – upcycling!

Terracycle collects 27 different ‘brigade’ items including chip bags, energy bar wrappers, candy wrappers, coffee bags, dried out pens, and yogurt containers and upcycles them into eco-friendly products. The awesome thing is that all of the items they collect are non-recyclable – there are no curbside recycling programs for them – or hard to recycle – only certain municipalities provide the capability to recycle things like yogurt containers which are typically made from #5 plastic. Now you are thinking, “Wow, that’s cool. But how do they get the stuff. Are they going through landfills?” Luckily for them, no. Any group or individual can sign up to collect and send items to TerraCycle. The shipping is free and 2 cents per item is donated to the school or charity of your choice. Terracycle then takes the ‘trash’ and makes backpacks, tote bags, and flower pots just to name a few of their 166 products.

Schools and non-profits across the US, Canada and the UK are signed up. As of this writing, Terracycle has over 10 million people collecting trash and has given over $1 million to their non-profits.
And the numbers keep growing. Since I joined TerraCycle in March of this year, I have seen their facebook fan page grow from a little over 2000 fans in March to close to 9000. The numbers increase daily! They have opened 2 new brigades in that timeframe as well – Starbucks Coffee Bag and the Home Storage Brigade (in conjunction with Ziploc).

I started my collection brigade on March 20, 2010. I started just as one person. I sent out an email to friends and family asking if they wanted to help me. I started getting such positive feedback so I kept going. I spoke to my daughters’ girl scout troops. The girls loved the idea and soon, several were sending bags of trash into school for my children to bring home to me. Moms would hand me bags before our meetings. I wanted to expand my collections and make it easier for people to get the items to me, rather than tracking me down around town. We are fortunate to have a farmers market during the summer and fall. I emailed the founder asking if I could have a collection bin there. Well, she loved the idea! Turns out that this group had recently expanded their mission calling themselves Sustainable Westford. Their mission is to bring “green” programs to the community. Now, I am running our Upcycle It! program through them and have gotten so much support and press. People are talking about it all over town. It’s so exciting!

If your school or charity is looking for a fundraising idea or you just want to do more green, join Terracycle. It’s easy. I love the feeling I get out of NOT putting so many things into the trash. I also love that my children are learning these lessons young. They don’t see trash anymore. Separating where things go when we are done with them is just part of what they do. They don’t think about it. That’s where the real benefit is!

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