Ahead of the World Environment Day 2021 on June 5th, we’re sharing an interview we have recently done with Tom Szaky, CEO of TerraCycle, a company that aims to change the way the world recycles. TerraCycle’s brand Loop is focusing on eliminating single-use packaging by partnering with big brands and retailers to offer consumers reusable packaging. Tom recently participated in the event Rethinking Materials in May, an event about packaging and performance materials, where he spoke in the session “Scaling Up: Identifying Early Adopters and New Routes to Market”.
How did the idea of creating TerraCycle come about?
The long and short of it is that we always wanted to create a business that focuses on mission driven capitalism, with a goal of eliminating the idea of waste. We started as a consumer product company, making fertilizer from homes, from garbage. Then TerraCycle pivoted to where we are today, which is a company with 3 major divisions: 1) we focus on how to recycle things that are hard to recycle, 2) we help companies integrate hard-to-recycle materials back into their products, 3) we move people to reuse, shifting from single-use to reusable products.
Where do you see future opportunities and challenges in waste management?
If you think about garbage, the garbage industry is basically focused on disposing everything they can as cheaply as possible within the laws of the land and if there are valuable materials in the garbage, they extract those and reprocess them, and that’s what we call recycling. So recycling is really mining garbage for value, and the problem is that the value and capability to sell recycled materials diminishes so things are becoming less recyclable, meaning more things are being disposed of.
Talking about Loop, when do you foresee that it will become mainstream in people’s households?
In probably 5 to 10 years it would become “mainstream”. We are working with big clients and big retailers so we have all the right ingredients, but it takes time.
Loop has partnered in Europe with retailer giants such as Tesco and Carrefour and food brands like Danone, Coca-Cola and Heinz – how do you see these and future partnerships developing?
I think that all these companies want to see this fully scale and are leaning into using Loop to figure out, if it’s a brand, how to make reuse come to life in manufacturing and if it’s a retailer, how they can make it come to life at scale in their own environment. The reason we’re excited about it is if we’re going to scale, these are the right companies to really be able to do it with.
With the increase in online grocery shopping due to the pandemic, how has it affected Loop?
You know, the pandemic has affected general reuse such as consumer-driven systems like refill stations quite negatively, however from our point of view, it hasn’t been all that challenging. And Loop isn’t either online or in-store, it’s whatever the retailer wants. So it started online but a lot of retailers now focus on going in store and some retailers like Carrefour are doing both, in-store and online. Loop is really a platform for reuse and retailers can use it however they see fit.
You can check out other interviews we have done here.