Would You Ever Partner with a Cigarette Company?

Waste is a problem. We’ve been helping solve it, one piece at a time, via our collection brigades for years now. Literally billions of pieces, collected by millions of people each earning 2 cents donated to the charity of people’s choice. That translates into $100,000 a month in the US alone. And we’re currently in 5 countries, aiming for 10 this year.

So far we’ve been source agnostic about it, like the recycling companies do. We may be a green company, but that hasn’t meant we only take waste from companies with pristine eco records. And really, what company is completely perfect when it comes to being sustainable? If anybody claims to be so, I’m quite certain they’re lying or delusional.

But what would you say if I told you we were approached by a major cigarette company to partner with them in collecting cigarette butts, to be upcycled into new products? Makes you think, doesn’t it? What do you think about that? I’d like to hear.

And at the same time, our goal is singular – It’s to solve the problem of waste. If we were to be exclusionary in who we took waste from, it would be counterproductive to our bigger goal, and the broader benefit to us all: Reduced waste, and a greater amount of people having a different view of what’s possible. As we like to say, reduce, reuse, rethink. The current reality is that there are much more products outside then inside the green bubble, and their packaging isn’t going away any time soon. So I say, let’s do something about it!

But butts are a problem. Or are they?

Yes, there can be thorny issues when it comes to cigarettes. But let’s not confuse those with what we’re considering here. You may not like smoking and what it represents, but would you like to see the sea of butts collected and reused for a positive purpose? I thought so.

Even better, what if the proceeds from collecting butts went to smoking prevention/education/addiction addressing charities and organizations?

What if ashtrays everywhere were replaced with stylish collection devices that educated people on upcycling? Waste eliminated, and minds expanded, both on that end, and when people by products made from what’s been collected.

So, should we partner and create a “butt brigade”? If so, making what? If not, why not? I look forward to your feedback.

Tom Szaky is the Founder and CEO of TerraCycle, Inc. a company that makes eco-revolutionary products entirely from garbage! TerraCycle, since its humble beginnings in a Princeton University dorm room, is committed to being a triple bottom line company. Tom at the ancient age of 19 learned about composting with worms. The concept of using tiny little worms to turn food waste into a powerful, organic fertilizer fascinated Tom, who was appalled by the amount of food discarded by his campus's cafeteria. Tom started TerraCycle with no investors from a friend's garage by building a Worm Gin where he could house millions of worms in a small area. He all but bankrupted himself and maxed out all his credit cards to build the machine. With the help of friends he would shovel pounds of rotten, maggot-infested food from the Princeton cafeterias. Without any money left over, Tom could not afford to buy bottles to package his fertilizer. That's when the sustainability gods smiled on Tom, who was up one night wandering the streets Princeton in search of an answer to his packaging dilemma. It just happened to be recycling night and Tom realized that millions of homes were putting billions of free bottles out on the curb once a week! That serendipitous moment set everything to follow into motion. Slowly he began to finance his infantile start up by winning business plan contests. Finally he hit the pay dirt! He won the million dollar grand prize at the Carrot Capital Business plan contest. However, the financiers of the contest wanted to move TerraCycle away from used bottles and away from it's environmental focus. Despite being on the verge of bankruptcy, Tom turned down the money. In the six years since then TerraCycle has grown to a multi-million dollar company that doubles in size every year. Still we are committed to our triple bottom line beginnings. Still making our products from other's people waste. Still based in an Urban Enterprise Zone in Trenton, NJ. Still a second chance employer. Find out how and why, here at triplepundit.com

8 responses

  1. What about a smaller scale, less ethically complicated approach, like diving into the idea of partnering with government agencies as well as restaurants, bars and businesses to start a program that recycles butts. If successful, maybe this can be copied elsewhere and have a growing impact while keeping the hands of the program administrators relatively clean.

  2. If there is an economically feasible way to recycle cellulose acetate filters, it seems that would supersede any possible objections to working with the tobacco industry. Apparently, buttons are made with cellulose acetate. Butts to buttons anyone?

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