Making Cool Products Out of Trash, Terracycle’s Product Development and Materials Sourcing Process

Before the company Terracycle, the only thing that backpacks, laptop bags, and kites, had in common with Caprisun pouches, Oreo wrappers, and chips bags, is the kids that took them to school everyday.  Not anymore.  Terracycle is flipping this on its head, by creating products like backpacks, laptop bags, and kites out of the trash that we toss out everyday. 

Founded by Tom Szaky and Jon Beyer in 2001, Terracycle started by offering composted plant food, which eventually hit shelves in Home Depot in 2004.  Since then, the company is gaining steam and, according to Ecopreneurist (h/t for the story), is now exploring opportunties with Walmart and Office Max. 

The above video was taken from National Geographic's show, Garbage Moguls, on Terracycle.  Making trash, otherwise headed for the landfill, into a viable material for resuse in a new product, is perhaps closer to a Cradle to Cradle process than anything else I've seen in consumer products.  Through Terracycle's process, the product could be considered to be up-cycled, rather than downcycled (the actual process that occurs in most "recycling", in which a product is broken up into its material components and some or all of those components are reused, or downcycled, into a product that requires a lower quality grade of material). 

Although in embryonic stages at this point, could this be the next disruptor in the materials market?  It will be interesting to watch as Terracycle moves to transform the prototypes developed by their teams into mass-manufacturable products.  It's certainly a challenge that can be tackled by the creative minds driving innovations like this forward in the first place.  I'm ready to buy my Caprisun laptop bag and to start scouting out landfills for potential sourcing and manufacturing applications.