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Recycling the Chureca

Last Friday, I was in Trenton, NJ. It is technically a world away from the Chureca. But when I stepped into the offices of TerraCycle and when I met Tom Szaky, the young CEO of the company, I thought about the Churequeros a lot. Tom Szaky recycles all he can think of. It goes from used diapers to cans and to cigarette butts. He also recycles plastic bottles and everything that is worth something in the Chureca as well. But he goes one step further. With his team, he thinks about a way to reinvent garbage and recycle it into a new product. For instance, cigarette butts are turned into ashtrays among other things. He keeps talking about outsmarting waste: “Instead of the product being the driver, garbage is the driver”.

TerraCycle collects 100 different kind of waste and helps to create 1500 new products with the material it recycles. The way it works is clever: TerraCycle asks people to join one of its brigades collecting one specific kind of waste. People, who join and collect waste, get points when they send it and can convert their points into cash to support a non-profit or a school of their choice.   In countries like Brazil and Mexico, Terracycle also works with cooperatives, which pay the waste pickers. I told Tom Szaky about the Chureca. Hopefully the Trenton-based company will get there as there is a lot to recycle in the Chureca.

If you are interested in joining one of the collection brigades, you can go to TerraCycle’s website.