Two years since launching Australia, waste sector social enterprise TerraCycle’s business is booming, with around 70,000 people subscribed as collectors, and a number of major city councils and some of the region’s biggest firms now taking part in programs that aim to recycle “unrecyclable” waste streams.
General manager Anna Minns said new corporate partnerships have just been signed in New Zealand with Fonterra for the recycling of baby food pouches, The Collective for yoghurt pouches, and with Glad Wrap for the recycling of cling film. Nespresso and Colgate have also extended their Australian partnership arrangement to their respective New Zealand customer bases.
A new initiative just launched in Australia is a consumer-paid Zero Waste Box that will be sold through OfficeWorks and Australia Post. These will enable users to recycle about ten new waste streams including pens, office stationary, binders, snack packaging, mail room supplies such as labels, plastic gloves, the hair nets and beard-nets used in the factory sector and media storage items including videotapes, CDs and USBs. Batteries will be added to these waste streams within the next week or so, Ms Minns said.
And from October, a partnership with Australia Post will see TerraCycle accepting Oz post satchels, while a partnership with food manufacturers Whole Kids will take in the company’s baby food pouches and snack packaging.
When the company launched its Australian branch in 2013 it was initially targeting cigarette butts, cleaning product elements such as triggers and nozzles, toothpaste tubes and coffee capsules.
Partnerships were developed with onshore recyclers who could develop a processing method, including Advanced Resource Recovery, who Ms Minns said has been processing the largest share of collected items and works closely with the company to develop solutions for various waste streams.
For example, the cigarette butts collected to date have been processed in Melbourne to produce plastic sheeting.
“They are finding a lot of applications for the product,” she said.
“All of our [corporate] partners have renewed. They see the value of it in terms of providing recycling solutions for customers.
“[And] our recycling partners are happy to have the new feedstock.”
The company has also been working closely with a number of local governments. Brisbane City Council has installed 100 bins for collecting cigarette waste, and Melbourne City Council has undertaken a trial with 60 bins installed throughout the city. Ms Minns said the trial had proven successful, and MCC is now looking to roll more of the bins out.
City of Canada Bay has also trialled the cigarette bins, and found they resulted in an 87 per cent reduction in cigarette litter, Ms Minns said.
“We are talking to lots of councils around the country,” she said.
The company’s staffing has grown as the business took off, from just one person in 2013 to five employees.
Individual collectors are offered a small donation to the charity of their choice when they send in a package of waste. To date this has resulted in $11,250 being raised and distributed to schools, community groups and charities.