Update on Terracycle

TCTer Johnny “The Bull” Bravo posted what follows as a comment on an old post about the recycling-based marketing-data harvester Terracycle. The comment is so good and so important, Senor Bravo has the unsolicited honor of being TCT’s first-ever guest post-author:

You might find this interesting (download it, terracycle might take it offline after they read this comment):

Terracycle “Brigades” sales pitch e-brochure

Check especially:
slide 9 “Proprietary data on collection organizations”
slide 26 and 44.

It’s a presentation directed at companies interested in partnering with Terracycle to collect their waste. It puts a strong focus on the marketing value of “consumers” no longer regarding their packaging as waste, thus consuming more (as a result of reduced guilt)… It is also mentioned that reused branded packaging equals millions of dollars worth in advertising space. Whereas Terracycle publicly states to be collecting waste because it is a valuable resource, companies are required to pay “per shipment” fees to Terracycle for every box of their waste collected by consumers.

The ecological efficiency of actions like sending in 5 plastic bags by mail (to get a reusable bag in return), is questionable. The marketing value is less questionable (see slide 32).

Normal recycling companies need bulk waste collection and processing, and then still aren’t able to make the numbers work for such low-value waste. But then again, they are just selling a product, not an image.

It seems Terracycle has, to say the least, changed to not only reusing and recycling because it is efficient and ecological, but also as a tool to clean up corporations image, at least sometimes, in a way which is disproportionate to the actual reduction in ecological impact by the measures taken. Which might just be the definition of greenwashing.

[TCT blogmaster’s note: TCT has taken the forbidden* liberty of downloading the whole brochure. One item that caught my eye is this one from page 9: The “other benefits” of contracting with Terracycle include “exclusivity in category.” Any corporation, in other words, that makes a deal with Terracycle to use its greenwashing endorsement and access its marketing data harvest gets to have its products be the only ones “in category” that can be collected by Terracycle. That right there is the kill-shot to the weak-to-begin-with claim that Terracycle exists to aid the environment. “Exclusivity in category” means that Terracycle refuses to “help” recycle two or more products in the same marketing slot from different makers. How green is that?]
*Interestingly, logically, and typically, Terracycle does not want its real plans disclosed to “consumers,” so pastes this note at the bottom of every page of the brochure: “Proprietary and Confidential. Do not Distribute Without Prior WrittenPermission from TerraCycle.” It will be interesting to see if Terracycle, which was quick to chime in on our prior post, asks TCT to take down the brochure…