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Butts out on Clean Up Australia Day: Who gives a toss about waste?

L-R Anna Minns, TerraCycle with teacher, Elaine Rose and students Dayne and Bri of Footscray City College at an upcycling workshop at the recent Living Sustainability Festival in Melbourne.

By ANNA MINNS

Waste isn’t always the sexiest topic.

When I tell people about the green business that I run and what we do, for some it’s a topic they would prefer to avoid thinking about. Once something is placed in the rubbish – it’s out of sight out of mind. But our waste ends up somewhere, whether it is at the local tip or in our oceans.

My journey to working with waste started two years ago when I was living in New Jersey. I had read about the innovative, exciting recycling company, TerraCycle, and discovered their head office was a mere 20 minutes from where I was based. I contacted them and started working there with a view to start their operations in Australia.

My workplace was their global HQ in Trenton, New Jersey, one of the United States’  “most dangerous cities”.  The TerraCycle office is an old warehouse that embodies the very idea of waste. The walls, inside and out, are painted with beautiful graffiti art, my desk was an old door propped up by a fire hydrant and a wine barrel. The graphics team sat across from my desk and old vinyl records divided our workspaces, and behind me was the CEO’s office that was constructed from used soft drink bottles.

Accepted waste for the Cleaner Packaging Brigade.

It was a fun and lively place to work, with lunchtime yoga, watching different DIY projects and teams in action, and it was often abuzz with film crews. And at the age of 34, I was one of the oldest people in the office!

What we do at TerraCycle is divert “unrecyclable” or “difficult-to-recycled” waste from landfill and reuse, upcycle or recycle it! People sign-up to our programs and instead of throwing out their used products and packaging, they send them to us (for free) through the mail to recycle them. Everyday things like like chip bags, toothbrushes, pens, coffee capsules and even cigarette butts. At the moment we throw all of these things into a big pile and bury them (if they’re not littered), and Australia has one of the highest rates of waste generation per capita in the world. Not very sexy!

We have come up with ways to recycle some of the most challenging waste streams that others deem worthless or unsavoury, including chewing gum, nappies and cigarettes, and turn them into new sustainable products.

Cigarettes are a great example of a waste stream we are working to solve. Even though cigarette butts are small, they are the most littered item in the world. According to the Clean Up Australia Day Rubbish report they are the second most littered item in Australia.

Imagine butt free beaches, parks and streets. It’s not impossible. In fact, the City of Vancouver in Canada aim to have zero cigarette waste under a pilot program with TerraCycle that involves placing cigarette recycling receptacles throughout the city.

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I’m very excited that we will be now recycling cigarette waste in Australia for the first time! With Clean Up Australia Day around the corner on Sunday, 2 March – over 5,000 Australia Post satchels have been sent to all Clean Up locations for their fantastic volunteers to safely collect cigarette waste in, and send back to TerraCycle to recycle them into plastic pellets and other items for industrial use.

But even after Clean Up Australia Day, people can sign-up to our program (households, workplaces, community groups) and continue to collect cigarette waste and send it to us to be recycled. It’s completely free to participate, and the collectors will receive $2 per kilogram collected to donate to their favourite charity! Click here to find out more.

Difficult to recycle items.

TerraCycle Australia is also tackling other difficult to recycle waste streams like oral care waste, Nespresso coffee capsules and cleaning packaging working with Colgate and Natures Organics and with Nespresso to expand their recycling program. For every piece of waste collected in most programs $0.02 cents is donated to the collector’s charity of choice, which is a great recycling and fundraising opportunity for community groups and schools.

It’s a new concept to send waste through the mail from home or the workplace – but an exciting first step to make recycling convenient, free and easy for everyone to take part. (I hope you agree – waste can be sexy!)

TerraCycle’s Cigarette Waste Brigade® launches nationally on Clean Up Australia Day and TerraCycle CEO, Eco Innovator Tom Szaky will be speaking at community lectures in Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland  about eliminating the idea of waste.   To sign up to the  Cigarette Waste Brigade® or for more information visit www.terracycle.com.au

Anna Minns, 35, is the General Manager of TerraCycle, Australia & New Zealand. She worked with the TerraCycle team for six months in the United States before bringing TerraCycle down under. She is a Solicitor, with a background in criminal and industrial law. Anna was involved in the creation of GetUp! She is the Founder of Daily Lime (dailylime.info) a blog providing fun, digestible tips on how to lead a greener lifestyle. She was also nominated as one of Australia’s Most Clickable Women! Anna spends all her spare time chasing after her two small boys.

TerraCycle, Inc. is a global recycling company that engages the community to collect ‘un-recyclable” and difficult-to-recycle packaging and products, and turns them into innovative eco products.  Founded in 2001, TerraCycle is the world’s leader in the collection and reuse of non-recyclable post-consumer waste.

TerraCycle works with over 110 of the world’s largest consumer goods brands to collect 75 different waste streams, including chip bags, pens, toothbrushes, chewing gum and even cigarette waste.

TerraCycle has operations in 24 countries and has over 50 million people participating globally in our programs to collect waste. Internationally we have diverted over 2.6 billion units of waste from landfill and paid over $8.8 million to charities and schools for participating in our programs.

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