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Blog: No longer powerless against pouch waste

Blog: No longer powerless against pouch waste
Tom Szaky

Tom Szaky

Last year, I penned a blog for this site, discussing the "Problem with the popularity of pouches", citing the excellent packaging qualities of pouches, but expressing concern about the inability of most to be recycled through traditional means. I am glad to provide an update of sorts to this story by way of an exciting milestone my company recently reached.

In 2007, TerraCycle launched a pilot recycling program with popular kid's beverages companies Honest Tea and Capri Sun to collect children's drink pouches, hoping to reduce the landfill waste caused by the number of those convenient, durable pouches that are commonly found within lunch boxes and on the sidelines of the soccer fields nationwide. Six years later, not only is it TerraCycle's longest running Brigade within TerraCycle, but it is also the most successful to date. It appears that the appetite to recycle pouches is no fleeting fad. 

In the span of six years, TerraCycle and Capri Sun, with vital support and participation from our Drink Pouch Participants, have saved over 200 million pouches from the landfill-centric fate of their ancestors. In addition, a total of $4 million dollars in donations was awarded to schools and charities alike in reward for collection. 

To celebrate the effort of participation and the support of our partner Capri Sun and the huge effort of Brigade collections, we've created a new reward program that expands the prizes given for community and individual efforts. Apart from monetary incentive TerraCycle already awards a Brigade, the new tiered reward program would further incentivize a TerraCycle participant according to the amount of drink pouches collected. 

In the consumer good world, pouches began as vessels solely intended for beverages. Their durability, flexibility, and ability to travel well proved appealing to other consumer markets, from baby food and nuts to even pet foods and cleaning supplies. TerraCycle reacted to this popularity by expanding its partnerships from Capri Sun and Honest Kids drink pouches to Mars Drinks Fresh Packs, Ella's Kitchen food pouches, Method Cleaner Refill packs, and Clif Family Winery wine pouches. 

While the packaging scientist and consumer sides of me can easily see why these pouches are popular, it's exactly this durability and popularity that makes the pouches an environmentalist's nightmare. That's why it makes me so proud to announce this exciting achievement, not because it is good for my business, but because it helps to reaffirm my belief that consumer do want more recycling options.

Furthermore, that with a small incentive and an understanding of the importance of their actions, consumers will go the extra mile to protect our planet, if they are only given the chance.

As long as the pouch remains an affordable, effective packaging format, we've got to be equally effective in developing and maintaining recycling systems. We can take the time to pat ourselves on the back for what we've accomplished thus far, but we, as producers and consumers, can't forget that growing the circular economy needs constant collaboration and innovation. 

Tom Szaky, founder/CEO of TerraCycle, has won more than 50 awards for entrepreneurship, also writes blogs for Treehugger and The New York Times, recently published a book called "Revolution in a Bottle" and is the star of a National Geographic Channel special, "Garbage Moguls."


TAGS: Pouches
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