Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and TerraCycle

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that in 2011, Americans recycled or composted 34.7% of waste.  These numbers have improved from 28.5% in 2000, 16.7 percent in 1985 and 5.6% in 1960. Even with this growth there is still more that can be done.  In 2001, Tom Szaky, then a 20-year-old Princeton University freshmen, began producing organic fertilizer by packaging worm poop in used soda bottles.  Seeking further ways to recycle, Szaky expanded his operation to new realms and created the company, TerraCycle.

Today TerraCycle is considered the leader in the collection and reuse of non-recyclable, post-consumer waste.  The mission is to eliminate the idea of waste, by creating waste collection programs for previously non-recyclable, or difficult-to-recycle, waste. The collected waste is then converted into new products, ranging from park benches to backpacks.  The company works with 100 major brands in the United State and in 22 different countries.  In 2011, Terracycle added 30 new waste collection programs and the staff grew to more than 100 employees globally.  The program also managed to donate $3 million to charities for collected waste.

At Sierra Outdoor School we are always on the hunt for ways to be more environmentally-friendly, so we recently started our own TerraCycle program.  We looked for items that we could collect that worked for us and created a system to easily collect and store those items for shipment.  Schoolwide chip bag collections have begun, so remember to clean out and TerraCycle your chip bags when you are here.  Staff members will inform you of where the nearest collection stations are.  Additionally, staff members have begun collecting hummus containers, Larabar energy bar, Clif bars, and writing instruments.

We encourage you to TerraCycle with us at Sierra Outdoor School and to even begin to TerraCycle at your home, school, community organization, or corporation.  So how do you get started? Learn more by visiting t  There are a wide variety of collected items to choose from, with everything from Colgate toothpaste containers to Capri Sun pouches.  Find items you can collect and store.  You can even accumulate points and cash them in to earn prizes or donate to a charity.

Thanks for reading and good luck!
Kim ‘Cedar’ Pedersen


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