Written By: Beatrix Boehner

“Everything can be recycled.”

This is a quote by Tom Szaky, who came to visit the Middle School to inform us about the benefits and challenges of recycling. Mr Szaky told us that our idea of recycling is wrong-more that just glass, paper, and plastic can be recycled. Everything can be recycled. But, for the most part, recycling is costly. Mr. Szaky’s business, Terracycle, has a mission to make recycling easy and cost effective. 

One of the projects that Mr. Szaky has taken on is working with different companies to create sustainable packaging. When plastic was first introduced, it was made for convenience and durability. Today, people use most types of plastic only once before disposing of it. But, plastic was made to last for much longer than one use, which is why it takes it so long to decompose in landfills or ends up polluting our oceans. Mr. Szaky is questioning whether or not we need durable throw away packaging.

copyright: Dairy Reporter

He has taken this question one step further by asking who should own the packaging. As a consumer, you typically want the product inside the package, not the package itself. Mr. Szaky used the example of a milkman from the 1950s and 60s. Back then, you bought the milk, and not the milk bottle. He is using this idea to inspire his new project called Loop, where the participating companies – like Häagen-Dazs, Tide, Pantene, and Febreeze – own the reusable packaging. For example, a consumer would buy a container of Häagen-Dazs, eat the ice cream inside of it, and place the metal container in a portable carrier to be picked up and sterilized for its next use. Loop is an example of creating a circular economy that eliminates single use waste. 

However, Mr. Szaky reminded us that recycling is not the only answer. We need to do more than just rely on having reusable packaging and recycling everything. We need to eliminate some of the stuff we have. Reducing the amount we consume is the biggest step towards fixing our waste problem.