Recycling entrepreneur stubs out cigarette garbage



Agence France Presse

Published — Monday 28 January 2013

Last update 28 January 2013 12:03 am

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

Recycling entrepreneur Tom Szaky is stubbing out the world’s cigarette problem — one butt at a time.
The 30-year-old who dropped out of Princeton University to start his innovative company TerraCycle in Trenton, New Jersey, says there’s no such thing as trash, even when you’re talking about the contents of ashtrays.
In a program that started last May in Canada and which now is running from the United States to Spain, TerraCycle collects cigarette butts from volunteers and turns them into plastic, which can be used for anything, even ashtrays themselves.
The discarded cigarettes, which litter countries around the world, are first broken up, with the paper and remaining tobacco composted. The filter, made of a plastic called cellulose acetate, is melted down and turned into an ingredient for making a wide range of industrial plastic products, such as pallets — the trays used to ship heavy goods. It seems that for once smoking benefits everyone.
The tobacco industry, happy to get some decent publicity, pays TerraCycle.
Volunteer collectors win points per butt, which can then be redeemed as contributions to charities.
Sidewalks start looking cleaner. And TerraCycle, which sells recycled products to retailers like Walmart and Whole Foods, gets more business.
TerraCycle has a similarly creative view on all manner of other refuse that has tended to be bracketed as impossible to recycle and is instead sent to the landfill.
Juice sachets, plastic bottles, pens, coffee capsules, sweet wrappers, toothbrushes, and computer keyboards are all grist for TerraCycle’s mill.
Some items go to classic recycling, meaning they are used purely as material for a wholly new product. Others are upcycled, which means the shape of the piece of garbage is retained and incorporated into a new product. For example, sweet wrappers, complete with their logos, are used to bind books, or are joined together to make backpacks. “The purpose of TerraCycle is to make things that are non recyclable recyclable,” CEO Szaky told AFP at the New Jersey headquarters. Soon they’ll be doing chewing gum and dirty nappies, but Szaky said his “personal favorite” is used cigarettes.
“It’s the ash, the cigarette butt, it’s the packaging, everything,” he said.
“After we launched it in May in Canada, it was so successful, we collected over a million cigarettes in a short period of time. We had all these great organizations collecting and the tobacco industry was so excited that they launched the program in the US, in Spain.”
Expect to see the project spread through Europe and possibly Mexico in the next four months, he said.
It takes between 1,000 and 2,000 butts to make a plastic ashtray, and more than 200,000 to make a garden chair. Not that there’s any shortage of supplies: 37 percent of the world’s litter is in cigarette butts, with up to a couple trillion thrown out yearly, Szaky said. About 35 million people across 22 countries take part in TerraCycle’s collection programs, which are financed by businesses, like Old Navy clothing in the United States and Colgate, which supports the toothbrush collection.
“When we created the cigarette solution, we went to big companies and showed them plastic made from used cigarettes. They couldn’t believe it and the companies got very engaged,” he said. “They not only finance the program and pay for all the costs, they are out here, and are going to do very aggressive promotion.”
Szaky’s company began with two people the idea of harvesting worm excrement for fertilizer. Now it employs about 100 people.
“I want to solve every kind of garbage that exists,” he said. “My real goal would be that there is no such thing as garbage. Garbage doesn’t exist in nature.”

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: The Al-Haramain Train project is described as the largest public transportation project in the Middle East. This vital and strategic project is one of the implementation schemes of the mass expansion of the Saudi railway across the country.Th...
JEDDAH: The number of marriages between expatriates and Saudis has dropped 84 percent to 1,928 since the start of this Islamic year that began on Oct. 24, compared to the same period the previous year.The Ministry of Justice said that there were 12,0...
JEDDAH: Unofficial marriage is a refuge for a divorced mother to lead a married life while keeping her children in her custody but without the knowledge of the former husband who could demand the custody of the children if he learned about the ex-wif...
JEDDAH: Makkah’s health department has set up a committee to verify the sick leave certificates of employees.The department stated it would apply government regulations on sick leave, which includes people providing the address of the facilities wher...
RIYADH: The directorate of roads and transport has registered 20 cases of violations worth SR24,500 in Al-Qassim, where the transport ministry continued its surveillance drive against the companies in the transport business.According to the directora...
RIYADH: Muslims must cut traditionally high electricity use during Ramadan in line with the principles of austerity and self-control they are supposed to adopt in this month, economists say.Economist Al-Sadeq Idris said energy use increases during Ra...
RIYADH: The implementation of an integrated health plan to combat MERS has resulted in a sharp drop in cases, with only one out of 736 samples testing positive for the contagion in the Kingdom in the last six days. Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Khal...
RIYADH: Muslims must cut traditionally high electricity use during Ramadan in line with the principles of austerity and self-control they are supposed to adopt in this month, economists say.Economist Al-Sadeq Idris said energy use increases during Ra...
JEDDAH: The Ministry of Commerce and Industry will begin next Tuesday to check whether companies are complying with new laws requiring them to place proper price labels on all their products.It is mandatory for companies to stop using phrases such as...
RIYADH: Minister of Islamic Affairs Saleh Al-Asheikh chaired the first meeting with Yemeni scholars to exchange ideas on how to strengthen their role in restoring peace in their country.The first Saudi-Yemen scholars meeting, dubbed the “outreach sch...
RIYADH: To cope with the growing number of applicants (boys and girls) at technical colleges that reached 126,023 last year, a state-run organization launched an online unified portal to ease the enrolment procedures.According to the Technical and V...
RIYADH: A senior government official from Dhaka, who visited Riyadh last week, has sorted out technical issues to expedite issuing 1.5 million machine readable passports (MRP) to Bangladeshi expatriates in the Kingdom. Information and Communication T...
JEDDAH: Jeddah municipality is keen to provide health and food security to residents and visitors of the city, and they are continually conducting inspections of food stores, restaurants, markets and food storage facilities to avoid any violations by...
JEDDAH: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman has been awarded a top international prize for his contribution to the propagation of the Qur’an.He was named the “Islamic Personality of the Year” by the Holy Qur’an International Memorization Or...
JEDDAH: Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, second deputy premier, minister of defense and chairman of the Economic Affairs and Development Council, held a meeting in Jeddah on Monday with Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed, deputy national security advis...

Stay Connected

Facebook