You may be familiar with TerraCycle, the company that has redefined trash by recycling and upcycling just about anything it can get its hands on. My first experience with the company's efforts was when my boys were in grammar school. The school collected juice pouches from lunch for TerraCycle's Juice Pouch Brigade. I volunteered to be the person who took the pouches home, removed the straws, and bundled them up to send in. It was a messy, but important job, and I recruited my boys to help me in the recycling efforts. (We learned quickly that it couldn't be done outside during bee season.)
The pouches the boys' school collected ended up being upcycled into items like pencil cases and backpacks. The company also upcycles things like pens and markers into trashcans and picnic tables and cigarette butts into railroad ties.
That's just a fraction of the used items they keep out of landfills. Now, TerraCycle wants to help families waste even less with a new book "Make Garbage Great: The TerraCycle Family Guide to a Zero-Waste Lifestyle" by TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky and vice president of communications Albe Zakes.
The book is part wake-up call, part history lesson, part how-to, and part DIY arts and crafts instruction. The wake-up call comes in the introduction by Szaky who writes that in "2010, the U.S. was generating 3.8 million tons of garbage every day. That's expected to hit 6.6 million tons per day by 2025. At this rate, and if nothing is done about it, we will be generating 12 million tons of garbage every day by 2100."
In an effort to help individuals do what they can to curb their contribution to the tons of waste created every day, "Make Garbage Great" gives the history of various materials, discusses why those various materials are a problem, and gives tips and DIY projects to recycle or upcycle each material. There is a chapter each on plastics, metals, paper, textiles, glass, wood, rubber and organics.
Take plastic utensils for example. About 100 billion disposable utensils are thrown away every year and they will not biodegrade in a landfill. Just that fact alone may make you think twice about using throwaway plastic utensils in your home even just once or twice a year. Those drink pouches my sons and I collected for the Drink Brigade all those years ago are made from plastic, too. The book has instructions for an easy project to create with a drink pouch: a Drink Pouch Coin Purse. It's a craft that kids ages 6 and up can do. A more complicated project for plastics is a room divider made out of old compact disks.
Each chapter is filled with tons of tips and ideas for reducing the amount of waste you create to begin with and for responsibly handling the waste you end up creating in your home. If you're a conscious consumer, some of the information you may already know, but there are little tidbits in this book that will help you recycle more than you thought you were able to. It has information on where you can take old sneakers, pillows, and all that electronic waste that seems to pile up quicker and quicker each year.
Whether the book inspires you to get a little crafty with your waste or simply inspires you to think before you buy or before you toss, anyone who is concerned about the amount of waste our culture creates will find some ideas here. Even the physical book itself is a bit of an inspiration. It's printed on tree-free paper and is a reminder that there is usually a sustainable alternative to many of the products that we waste.