Expert's Opinion

Recycled Materials Connects with Consumers

By Tom Szaky, TerraCycle | February 20, 2017

TerraCycle signs a big deal with P&G.

A year ago, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, a report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation found that most plastic packaging is used only once; 95% of the value of plastic packaging material, worth $80 billion-$120 billion annually, is lost to the economy after a short first use.  

Procter & Gamble just recently announced that it has teamed up with us at TerraCycle and Suez, the largest waste management company in Europe, to source, develop and put out the first fully recyclable shampoo bottle made from beach plastic for the world’s #1 shampoo brand, Head & Shoulders. The first 150,000 bottles will be available in France this summer, making it the world’s largest production run of recyclable shampoo bottles made with beach plastic, and a major step in establishing a unique supply chain that supports a new plastics economy. See also:

Using the program created by TerraCycle and Suez as a sourcing method, P&G not only creates a market for recycled plastics, but a sustainable supply chain designed to feed back into itself.  Working with hundreds of NGOs and other beach cleanup organizations, TerraCycle sources the shipments of rigid plastics collected through beach cleanup efforts, capturing these materials for recycling for the first time, at no cost to participants.

Being a steward for the recycled materials market has untapped resource and marketing potential for consumer product companies on many fronts. Recycling and recyclability being the most accessible and easily understood aspects of sustainability for consumers, pioneering the integration of more recycled materials into production, and developing end-of-life solutions for products and packaging, can allow companies to scale for growth and generate efficiencies in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Consumers do care about recycling. In a survey conducted for Packaging Digest’s 2015 Sustainable Packaging Study, 57% of participants cite a product’s recyclability to be top of mind when it comes to the environment and sustainability, a product featuring recycled content and reduced packaging coming up for second and third place. The majority of consumers see recyclability as the most important factor in choosing sustainable products, and it is consumers that ultimately drive company behavior.

The scale of the beach plastics project focuses on the goal of incorporating more post-consumer recycled content (as P&G has for over 25 years, last year using 34,000 metric tons) across other P&G brands and globally, inspiring other world entities to do the same. P&G Hair Care is projected to see half a billion bottles per year include 25% PCR by the end of 2018, and the announcement is an important step in P&G’s mission to meet the Corporate 2020 goal of doubling the tonnage of PCR used in plastic packaging.

Collecting waste materials to use them as resources to create new products is what recycling is about. Manufacturers and brands can create and expand the market for recycled plastics by purchasing recycled materials to make their products, selling them to consumers and then making the product easily recyclable. Brands rethinking plastic packaging production carve themselves a place in the new plastics economy, effectively addressing growing consumer demand for more circular waste solutions and greater responsibility on the part of consumer product companies.

About the Author
Tom Szaky is the founder and CEO of TerraCycle, a global leader in the collection and repurposing of otherwise non-recyclable post-consumer and post-industrial waste. In 20 countries, TerraCycle creates national platforms to recycle products and packaging that currently go to landfill or incineration, in collaboration with the world’s largest brands (e.g. Mars, PepsiCo, P&G), retailers (e.g. Staples, Target), and cities (e.g. Tokyo, New Orleans).
Through TerraCycle, Tom is pioneering a new waste management process, involving manufacturers, retailers, governments and consumers, to create circular solutions for materials such as cigarette butts, laboratory waste, coffee capsules and even food packaging that otherwise have no other path to be recycled.
Tom is the author of three books, “Revolution in a Bottle” (2009, Portfolio) and “Outsmart Waste” (2014, Berrett-Koehler) and “Make Garbage Great” (2015, HarperCollins). Tom created, produces and stars in a TerraCycle focused TV show, “Human Resources” airing on Pivot TV. Season 3 of the show aired Fall 2016. Tom and TerraCycle have received over 200 social, environmental and business awards from a range of organizations including the United Nations, World Economic Forum, Forbes Magazine, Ernst & Young, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

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