TerraCycle and Kraft Foods: Bringing Upcycling to UK Shores

Filed in Blog, Guest Posts by on October 29, 2009 9 Comments
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Albe has it all wrapped up for zero waste coffee

Albe has it all wrapped up for zero waste coffee

I’m really excited to be sharing this week’s guest post! We’ve spoken before about how difficult it is to get a zero waste cup of coffee; either out and about or at home. Now, thanks to TerraCycle, you can have your cup of coffee and drink it!

Albe Zakes is the Vice President of Media Relations at TerraCycle, Inc., the world’s leading ‘upcycling’ company.

Whilst studying at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Albe ran several grassroots groups and worked as a student volunteer supervisor for CoPIRG (Colorado Public Interest Research Group.) where he helped to run the Environment Alert initiative, hosting on-campus awareness events and running letter writing, petitioning and fundraising campaigns.

Zero waste coffee

The next time you’re done making a pot of coffee with either Kenco or Tassimo, stop what you’re doing, and turn away from the bin.


Because you, your friends, your office, your community group can now collect them, ship them to a company called TerraCycle in a free box, and two things will happen: £0.02 per piece will be donated to the charity or school of your choice, and those packages will be “upcycled” into new, eco-friendly products.

Upcycled eco friendly products

That means rather then use energy in melting and reforming the material into something else, as in traditional recycling, we maintain the value that the material’s shape provides, creating something entirely different. Less energy, better results.

We’ll turn that used Kenco or Tassimo packaging into everything from coasters to weekend bags, giving what would otherwise be a rather short lifespan of this packaging a much longer, more useful post consumer life.


Who are we?

Reusable shopping bag made by TerraCycle from Kenco wrappers

Reusable shopping bag made by TerraCycle from Kenco wrappers

TerraCycle, is a company with a trashy beginning, and an interesting present. It all started in 2001 when Tom Szaky was a first year student at Princeton. After learning about the amazing efficacy of worm poop (aka vermicompost) as a plant food, he began to search for ways to make a business out of it, composting student food waste. Without money for packaging,  he struck on an idea: collect plastic soda bottles from area recycle bins, then clean and relabel them as TerraCycle Plant Food.

This continues to this day, on a much larger scale, now with everything from wine corks to nappy (wrappers not the actual goods!).

Trash as treasure

Our aim here is simple: Remove as much as possible from the “waste” stream, and change your ideas of what is waste and what need not be. And, most importantly, we create products that are quite affordable, skipping the “green tax” that most sustainable products charge. You shouldn’t have to choose between sustainable and affordable.

Why did we, an American company, choose to start up operations here in the UK?

With help from Kraft Foods Europe we identified the UK for your savvy as consumers, and given the chance to choose something other then throw something away, we think you’d be glad to do otherwise. And for those that don’t have that aim in mind, having a tangible benefit in place for doing something that takes minimal effort is a clear winner for all involved.

Join a TerraCycle brigade!

Though we’ve been doing this for years, we don’t presume to know it all when doing it in a new country. That’s why our staff and operations their are almost entirely UK and EU based. You help us do a better job in your country, and we, via your collections (and the mislabels and end of runs we collect directly from companies) create jobs.

Would you like to take part in this? Join one of our collection “Brigades” and start finding a new home for your Kenco and Tassimo coffee packaging! We’ll soon be expanding what we collect, do stay tuned.


About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (9)

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  1. Sharon says:

    I think this is a great idea! When I first saw the Kenco eco refill pouch in the supermarket I thought they were replacing a recyclable glass jar and plastic lid with something I would end up throwing in the bin. I was really pleased to find out about terracycle, and hope it is just the beginning of a great scheme to bring upcycling to the masses!!

  2. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    Terracycle are doing something useful with plastic packaging waste, and on a grand scale. It is definitely a culture shock to me but the trend is all about change. I still like my unpackaged sources but will support the Kenco/Terracycle campaign, as a Zero Waste Alternative.

    With ‘grow your own’ on the agenda, Terracycle ‘worm poop’ would be worth comparing with the Miracle-Gro I currently use. That will be for next spring/summer.

    It is great to see Terracycle doing well after your earlier coverage in 2008, when they were taking back soda bottles for upcycling. Upcycling is the right word for their activity.

  3. Johnora says:

    This is a fabulous idea! I’ve often looked at these packages and thought what useful material we are just throwing away. NOW you are repurposing it into something beautiful and practical. This is intelligent use of waste material and needs to be noticed by other companies.

    Many goods, especially foods are wrapped in glitzy metalized plastic that looks great, but it end up in the bin. Good luck with your endeavor and I look forward to seeing your creations available in the high street.

  4. Mr Green says:

    Mmm, I like this idea. Have you got any celebreties behind it? That’s what you need … someone to make this product street cred and ‘IN’ Thanks for the heads up here. We support you all the way Albe!

  5. Poppy says:

    That was my thoughts exactly Sharon. Jar I can reuse or recycle, or packet that has to go to landfill?

    We actually drink very little coffee though, so although I appreciate that people will be able to dispose of these packs in an eco-friendly manner, the one or two jars a year we have will continue to be re-used at home 🙂

  6. Mrs Green says:

    @Sharon: Hi Sharon, I was concerned when I saw the glass replaced with plastic too, but now Terracycle have helped us to close the loop with their recycling programme. It’s good news, especially with plans to extend the range of products they can use.

    @John Costigane: Hi John, things move quickly don’t they? Yes I too favour unpackaged, but it’s great to see more choices should unpackaged goods be unavailable. We would certainly support these packs if ever we found ourselves without waste free coffee.

    @Johnora: Hi Johnora, welcome to the site and thanks for taking the time to leave a comment! I’m glad you like their products; creating desirable products is the key to success

    @Mr Green: I agree Mr G – a celebrity can turn the most benign thing into a ‘must have’ accessory!

    @Poppy: My first thoughts, too, Poppy. But I think Kenco are taking into account the full ‘green’ credentials of their packaging and of course these packs, although plastic, are 97% less heavy than glass jars which means less transport emissions due to lower weight and the fact you can get more into the same space. Too complex for me LOL!

  7. John Costigane says:

    Hi Mrs Green,

    I enjoy Kenco coffee so the packs will be on my supermarket list when they are available locally.

    On the subject of packaging, have you come across the new tins in use, which are much thinner and have no paper label to recycle. I have bought 3 of these, 2 half-sized tins of nuts, almonds and cashews, from Lidls and a similar sized tin of condensed milk. ideal for baking.

    Recently, I made coconut pyramids: Condensed milk, small tin, 1 egg, 250g coconut, more if required. Beat all 3 vigorously into a thick mass. You should be able to form solid lumps. If not add more coconut.
    Place 12 pyramid shapes, glace cherry at tip, on a tray with baking paper. and bake for 10-15 minutes gas 5 / 190 degrees. Ideal for any coconut nut.

  8. Mrs Green says:

    @John Costigane: Hi John, I’ve not seen the tins; I’ll have a look for them next time I’m shopping.
    We still can’t get unpackaged coconut – we used to be able to, but the shop found that due to lack of interest they stopped selling it 🙁

  9. Edward Campbell says:

    Hi there. You may not become eco-millionaires but you’ll have a lot of good will from those who vote Green Party. You should set up in Brighton. We have the only Green Party MP in the UK. I’m sure you’d have a warm welcome here.

    Best wishes

    Paul Campbell

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