The merry band of upcyclers at TerraCycle, the “waste solution development” firm that specializes in transforming even the most undesirable/hard-to-recycle garbage into nifty consumer goods, are getting their own reality series pardon, unscripted “docu-comedy.”

The 10-episode series, “Human Resources,” will debut on Participant Media’s social advocacy-focused cable channel, Pivot TV, on Aug. 8 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

Having once toured TerraCycle’s labyrinthine, graffiti-clad headquarters in Trenton, New Jersey, before, I can honestly say it’s a primo spot for a whacky workplace reality show — imagine the free-spirited love child of a science lab, the workroom on “Rupaul’s Drag Race,” a highly specific episode of “Hoarders,” and the interior of a New York City subway car circa 1982. Sprinkle this with a liberal dusting of "Pee-Hee's Playhouse"  and you’re somewhat close.

Needless to say, it’s a magically disorienting place.

And along with such an unorthodox yet dynamic work environment — a “nonstop, deadline-driven world” — according to promotional materials) comes a motley crew of staffers, all working toward a single mission to “eliminate the idea of waste.”

You’ve got TerraCycle founder Tom Szaky, a Princeton dropout who went from peddling worm poop fertilizer packaged in reclaimed plastic bottles to heading a global upcycling empire; Tiffany Threadgould, a Pomeranian-toting DIY doyenne who heads up the design department; and Albe Zakes, an affable former intern who worked his way up the chain to become the thriving company's VP of Global Marketing and Communications.

Other TerraCycle staffers who appear on the show include in-house graffiti artist and resident Rastafarian Dean Innocenzi, scientist Rick Zultner; and number-crunching global operations manager Andrew Heine who apparently really likes Phish and thinks a large number of his colleagues are bonkers.


While the business at hand — design, innovation, outreach, community involvement, landfill avoidance, and revolutionizing the way we look at our trash — plays a crucial/inspirational part of “Human Resources,” it’s the TerraCycle employees who provide the show, produced by Left/Right ("Mob Wives," "The Rachel Zoe Project") with the goods —you know, the drama, the infighting, the eye-rolling, the interoffice hijinks.

As a press statement released by Participant Media explains, the mash-up of "eclectic" personalities at TerraCycle HQ “run the gamut from science geeks and eco-passionates who take time away from their (recycled) desks to snack on kale chips and take part in office yoga, to skeptical, more straight-laced employees who work hard and provide a balance to the crazy antics that sometimes bend the rules of corporate America.”

Basically, it’s an unscripted, Millennial’s version of “The Office” but where the water cooler trash talk revolves around talking about actual trash; it's “Murphy Brown” with mountains of empty Capri Sun pouches instead of a sink filled with empty coffee mugs.

Beyond “Human Resources,” TerraCycle recently partnered with Participant Media and nonprofit Recycle Across America (RAA) to launch a new social action campaign called Recycle Right! The campaign, which was actually inspired by “Human Resources,” aims to “expand the use of standardized recycling labels to empower everyone to lessen their environmental footprint by fixing the dysfunction of recycling.”

Elaborates Szaky in a recent guest post written for sister site TreeHugger:

By combining our strengths, TerraCycle, RAA and Pivot TV will bring more awareness to reshaping recycling and bettering the environment. Although this is only one partnership hoping to better the environment, it is still better than no initiative at all. After all, it takes a planet to save a planet, and you always have to start somewhere.
And if you're experiencing a wicked case of déjà vu right now, you're not alone: This isn't the first time that the sponsored waste specialists have done reality TV. In 2009, the 13-year-old company was featured on the National Geographic series "Garbage Moguls."

"Human Resources" appears to be the first excursion into the workplace reality genre for Pivot TV, a channel perhaps best known for blending the topical (the Meghan McCain-hosted docu-talk series "Raising McCain") and the cultishly adored ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer" marathons). And while we've seen multiple shows on numerous different professions — cake baking, aquarium manufacturing, funeral directing, deep sea fishing, etc.  — come and go, it's unlikely you'll ever see anything quite like "Human Resources" as TerraCycle is truly one-of-a-kind.

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Trash TV: TerraCycle subject of new workplace 'docu-comedy'
Upcoming reality series 'Human Resources' takes viewers inside the headquarters of New Jersey's most colorful rubbish-collecting empire.