Trash for Cash?
Convenience comes at a cost. Sure you can purchase jars and jars of applesauce but how easy is it to take those to school or the pool or on road trips? With the invention of crushed fruit pouches, we have found an easy, convenient and somewhat mess free way to take our applesauce on the go. When we’re finished with the pouch, just toss it in the trash. The same can be said for juice. Juice comes in a pouch as well. As much as we try to reduce the amount of waste we produce by using reusable products, there will always be items that can’t easily be recycled but can be re-purposed. Convenience comes at a cost to our environment. Could there be a better way? What if things like those used pouches didn’t have to go in a landfill? Is it possible to trade your trash for cash? Have I peaked your interest?
Ever heard of TerraCycle? I first read about this company in Parents magazine about 7 years ago. The premise behind TerraCycle is they take hard to recycle items and repurpose them in to something new!?! Similar to Nike Grind, which repurposes sneakers in to a variety of useful goods. I talk more about that program here. As a collector for TerraCycle, you can earn points redeemable for prizes or cash donations to the charity of your choice (schools count!). TerraCycle does this in partnership with brands, manufacturers and retailers.
It Began With Worms
A trip to Montreal with some friends in 2001 resulted in the birth of TerraCycle. Tom Szaky started TerraCycle after seeing his friends feeding food waste to worms and that then becoming plant fertilizer. This shaped the Princeton University student’s view of waste. TerraCycle and “Eliminating the Idea of Waste” was born. For the next 6 years, TerraCycle was in the business of plant food. Long about 2007, the juice pouch collection group, TerraCycle calls the collection groups “brigades”, was launched and TerraCycle has been growing ever since. You can read more about the history of TerraCycle here.
Earning Money For Schools
The elementary school that my kids attend participates in the TerraCycle program. I run the program at our school, so I’m just a bit partial to it but it truly is a great program that makes it super easy to trade trash for cash. The logistics of it are easy –
- sign up with TerraCycle
- choose which “brigades” you will collect for
- collect the waste
- when it meets the weight requirements, box it up
- ship it off to TerraCycle with a free UPS shipping label
- earn points
- redeem points for cash for your charity, in our case, our school PTA
It does take a bit of work to get the program up and running but after that, it’s pretty straight forward and easy to run. When participating as a school, adult supervision is definitely required to manage the account online as well as transporting the shipments to UPS.
Getting Started is Easy
Getting started is super easy. Just click here to sign up. You can find all the information you need to get your program up and running. My tips to start strong:
- plan the logistics of how the program will operate
- decide who will be responsible for each job
- explain to anyone involved, what the program is and why you’re participating
- start slow, just a brigade or two to start
- make collection as easy as possible (bins in convenient/logical places)
- if you’re participating as a school or place where kids are involved, make a kid friendly message to introduce the program
Whenever kids are participating, I really believe the more involved they are, the more successful the program will be. If your school has a “Green Team” of any kind, this is probably the best place to get started.
Trash for Cash
Since 2012 when our school opened, I’ve been managing the TerraCycle program. We have a station set up in the cafeteria where we collect things like salty snack bags, granola bar wrappers, Entemann’s Little Bites wrappers and applesauce pouches. The kids are pretty good about sorting their TerraCycle waste from their landfill waste but I’m sure we’re still not capturing even 75% of what we could in the cafeteria. After all, they are kids, they only get a limited amount of time to socialize in school and that’s what lunch time is for.
In our school lobby, we have a station set up where we collect things the kids can bring from home like toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, make-up containers, shampoo bottles, etc. Over the 5 years that our school has been participating, we have raised over $6,500 by simply trading our trash for cash and keeping it out of the landfill. This program has enabled us to keep more than 336,000 pieces of waste out of landfills. I’d say it’s a win-win for all.
The year we started, TerraCycle had a bin design contest. One of teachers at our school, along with her students designed and built our entry. We won second place (if my memory serves correctly)! Our school has participated in several of the contests and we’ve won not only cash prizes but products produced by TerraCycle. Can you believe the green bin in the above picture is made from juice pouches!?! We also have a bench in the front of our school made from juice pouches. Who knew trading trash for cash could be so much fun?
What I Love
I was drawn in to the program simply by it’s mission and now, I have a whole different outlook on waste. Earning money for your school or other organization is always wonderful however, what I love most about this program is what we are learning. We are learning to look at waste in a different way. Participation presents an opportunity to learn about how waste is impacting our environment and what small things we can do each day to make our world a better place to live. My hope is that we are teaching our kids that just because we are “finished” with something doesn’t necessarily mean it is no longer useful. Another benefit to participating in this program, it is virtually FREE!?! We use boxes that are donated(re-use) and shipping is free. The only thing we pay for is the packing tape. This is one fundraising program that does not require asking parents for money! In my book, that is a winner!
Are you familiar with TerraCycle or a company similar to it? Do you or would you participate? I’d love to hear about your experience.