TerraCycle UK about to go live

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

TerraCycle launching in Britain

Tuesday, September 1, 2009 I had the great pleasure to meet with Tom Szaky and Albe Zakes from TerraCyle who were in London for the launch of TerraCycle UK and a real pleasure it was indeed. The only downside was that the meeting was far too short due to time limitations and this was rather a shame.

TerraCycle is in the UK, to begin with, partnering with Kenco and Tassimo to upcycle the foil pouches from their coffee machines into a number of great products. And the products that are going to be made from those pouches are amazing.

The idea with TerraCycle, said Tom, is to produce upcyled gear, now in partnership with makers the likes of Yak Pak, for instance, that is cheaper that other recycled goods, such as, in the case of billboard vinyls the Swiss maker Freitag. While a bag from Freitag retails for say $300 the same kind of bag from TerraCycle through Yak Pak is $30.

The aim is that people will buy TerraCycle products in favor of other gear and even people that, as Tom Szaky said, do not really care as to the fact that it is made from recycled materials, such as chip bags and advertising tarps, but simply because it is cheaper than other kit.

The aim is to have quality goods produced from waste that are cheaper than the equivalent made from virgin materials and that do not have the “green” premium that so many other recycled products do have.

This is a good thing, I must say, for I have said more than once that I cannot see how the prices of some recycled goods can be justified.

In one of the reviews that I have done I somewhat criticized the fact that the Juice Pouch Messenger Bags are not made in the USA but in Mexico and Tom managed to clear up a few things there, I believe.

TerraCycle stopped manufacturing “fabric” products and such in the US in 2008 as costs were becoming too prohibitive and in order to remain competitive and be able to sell products made from waste diverted from the waste stream cheaper than others and hence the move into Central- and South America, China and other places.

I do know that the outsourcing of manufacture is a sore point with many in the green movement but, as Tom Szaky said, it is not TerraCycle aim to change the current way of manufacturing in the world but to get as much waste as possible out of the “waste stream” and turned into affordable products that people want to buy. Products that they want to buy regardless of whether it is upcycled but simply because the price is right and the quality.

I guess this is something that we can agree upon, most of us at least.

While not trying to change the current way of manufacturing in this world,which means sewing operation outsourced to China and Central- and South America, for instance, TerraCycle ensures that factories treat people well and pay decent wages and all those places are audited for compliance and as to environmental impact.

The greatest problem with much of the “recycled” products made directly from waste, whether Freitag Bags, Feuerwear kit, or so many others, it is that their prices are beyond the pocketbooks of us mere mortals. Much in the same way organic foods.

The great majority of people who who might love to buy such upcycled products are not able to as the costs are so very prohibitive.

This is probably best illustrated with the “Belt Lace” that I have mentioned before which is nothing more than a piece of jute cord – recycled sash window cord in fact – and some lumber offcuts salvaged out of dumpsters from building sites and such that had been painted. The asking price for this piece of this item was over eighty dollars.

Such prices are not and cannot be sustainable and neither justifiable. It does not compute and is taking people for a ride.

TerraCycle's policy, on the other hand, is what could be called “Upcycled Products for the Masses”, bringing such products within reach of those of us that are not “made of money”.

© 2009