IAA Global Conference. 17 October. Bucharest Talking to Tom Szaky, CEO and founder Terracycle

Meet Tom Szaky, CEO & founder of Terracycle

Terracycle is a company with maybe the most powerful planetary mission there is: eliminating the idea of waste. For good. And it has the infrastructure, the partnerships, the technology and team to actually make this dream happen. The founder, Tom Szaky, has agreed to tell us a bit about their solutions and plans, a few insights before hearing him on the stage of the IAA Global Conference "Creativity 4 Better".

Until them, check Terracycle's website and Instagram to discover one of the greatest examples of how creativity can reshape the world, for better.

Terracycle, the company you have funded, recycles complex streams of waste or hard to recycle waste. Can you give us some examples of such waste that TerraCycle can take of? Can individuals, households, benefit from these services?

TerraCycle has recycling solutions for hundreds of waste streams. Some of our most popular ones include coffee capsules, cigarette butts, personal care and beauty products and oral care waste like toothpaste tubes. One of the great things about TerraCycle’s recycling programs is that anyone can take part. So, whether you are an individual, household, school, organization or business, there is an option for you. We have free consumer programs funded by our partners and we have Zero Waste Boxes which are available for purchase.

Do you have an estimate of how many people or companies have already gone zero waste?

We have more than 80 million people around the world recycling with TerraCycle.

What would be a step we could all take together against banishing landfills?

Consumers’ wallets are powerful tools. Make it a point to support companies and brands who are really tackling the problem of disposability and taking steps to find solutions.

Also, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when you think of the global waste problem as a whole, so don’t. Make small changes at home that gradually add up to big changes.

Maybe that means don’t use plastic bags when buying produce at a grocery store, or using dish towels instead of paper towels or not using plastic utensils at your next cookout. It won’t take long before these changes become a natural way of life.

Could you tell us a bit about the „clients” of TerraCycle – namely offer us some examples of municipalities that have embraced such solutions and some examples of large companies that support and use TerraCycle products?

TerraCycle works with hundreds of municipalities around the world who recycle a variety of waste streams through us. We work with the cities of Toronto, Melbourne (Australia) and Baltimore (U.S.), just to name a few, that recycle the #1 littered item, cigarette butts, with us.

Check out this short NatGeo documentary about Terracycle process of recycling cigarette butts

We work with many global companies to provide recycling options for consumers. Some of those include Colgate, L’Oreal, Procter & Gamble, BIC and Mondelēz International.

TerraCycle has the largest solution by volume for marine plastic and we work with companies such as Procter & Gamble and Unilever to incorporate it into new products. You may have heard about the Head & Shoulders bottles that have recycled marine plastic in them. They will be sold in eight countries by the end of the year.

You have even started a funny reality show, Human Resources – that’s clever!  How is that going, are people enjoying it, does it start to increase awareness and change the shared mentality on this issue?

We are on hiatus from filming new episodes, but our previous seasons are available on iTunes and Amazon. It was one of the highest rated shows on the network and we had great fun filming it. We also heard from a lot of viewers how much they enjoyed watching it. It was a great way to educate about the problems of waste and show that working in the waste management field can be fun.

Are you also offering up-cycling solutions and products? What would be such products and which are the most appreciated?

 Recycled & Upcycled items in Terracycle's office lobby 

We do offer upcycled solutions although it is a very small part of our business compared to our recycling solutions. We produce tablet cases and tote bags from used United States Postal Service mail bags and we make things for our brand partners for special programs, such as for pencil cases for contest winners. I would have to say those are the most appreciated because students are always excited to win something for their recycling efforts.


Don't miss out on the key note on sustainability from Tom Szaky at the IAA Global Conference. Join us for two days and learn how we can accomplish the zero waste mission, together!