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Published: Tuesday, January 3, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

‘Brigades' turning hard-to-recycle items into cash for schools, community groups

Recycling the unrecyclable generates money for schools, charities

  • Northshore Christian Academy fifth-grader McKenzie Main sorts items brought to the school for the Everett school's recycling program.

    Michael O'Leary / The Herald

    Northshore Christian Academy fifth-grader McKenzie Main sorts items brought to the school for the Everett school's recycling program.

  • The Northshore academy recycling program goes beyond traditional items to include chip bags and other packaging.

    Michael O'Leary / The Herald

    The Northshore academy recycling program goes beyond traditional items to include chip bags and other packaging.

  • Northshore Christian Academy third-graders Keera Cheek and Tyler Zuanich sort items for the school's recycling program.

    Michael O'Leary/The Herald

    Northshore Christian Academy third-graders Keera Cheek and Tyler Zuanich sort items for the school's recycling program.

  • Northshore Christian Academy third-grader Keera Cheek sorts classroom items for the school's recycling program.

    Michael O'Leary/The Herald

    Northshore Christian Academy third-grader Keera Cheek sorts classroom items for the school's recycling program.

  • Laurie Johson holds a handfull of plastic bottles that are scanned before going to the recycler.

    Michael O'Leary/The Herald

    Laurie Johson holds a handfull of plastic bottles that are scanned before going to the recycler.

  • Northshore Christian Academy fifth-graders Jonathan Schroeder and McKenzie Main sort items brought to the school by parents and students for the schoo...

    Michael O'Leary/The Herald

    Northshore Christian Academy fifth-graders Jonathan Schroeder and McKenzie Main sort items brought to the school by parents and students for the school's recycling program.

  • Northshore Christian Academy fifth-grader McKenzie Main sorts items for the school's recycling program.

    Michael O'Leary/The Herald

    Northshore Christian Academy fifth-grader McKenzie Main sorts items for the school's recycling program.

Toothpaste tubes, plastic tape dispensers, eye shadow cases, hair gel tubes, tostada sacks, cereal bags and baby food pouches: You can't recycle those, right?
Wrong.
Though curbside waste haulers in Snohomish County don't typically accept such things as part of their regional recycling programs, all of the above items -- and many more previously nonrecyclable wastes -- are now recyclable, thanks to TerraCycle.
Since 2007, the Trenton, N.J.-based TerraCycle has recycled more than 2 billion items while paying out more $3.3 million for schools and other nonprofit groups.
How?
TerraCycle enlists regular citizens to collect and ship items, most of them not recyclable by other means, to its New Jersey processing plant via UPS.
Free postage-paid shipping labels are provided to organizers who sign up for various recycling projects called brigades, such as the Colgate oral care brigade, which recycles all brands of toothpaste tubes, caps, toothbrushes and floss containers, or the drink pouch brigade, which accepts all aluminum and plastic drink pouches.
TerraCycle pays points -- typically two per item, which amounts to 2 cents -- to schools and nonprofit groups designated by brigade organizers.
TerraCycle, working in partnership with the makers of Kraft cheese, Mission tortillas, Lays potato chips and many other corporations, recycles the items or, in many cases, upcycles them into higher-value products.
That includes Skittles wrapper picture frames, Capri Sun pouch tree skirts, Huggies packaging bibs and SunChips bag pencil cases, to name a few.
Though individual households can start their own brigades to raise money for charities, schools have been among the biggest TerraCycle adopters.
A half-dozen schools in Snohomish County have used the program in recent years to earn money for special projects, TerraCycle spokeswoman Stacey Krauss said.
At the Northshore Christian Academy in Everett, TerraCycle has become a part of daily life, said Sandra Zuanich, the school's volunteer recycling for education coordinator.
During the last school year, Northshore's 900 preschool, elementary and middle-school students collected more than 1,000 pounds of waste for 15 TerraCycle brigades, including chip bag, energy bar wrapper and drink pouch brigades, to name a few.
Even items not sold at the school are collected in large quantities on the campus.
In the six weeks before Christmas break, for example, students collected more than 38 pounds of Capri Sun drink pouches, roughly 3,000 pouches, said Zuanich who also runs the school's Box Tops for Education, Labels for Education and Coke Rewards programs.
Twice each year TerraCycle sends the school a check for all the items its brigades have sent.
Zuanich is expecting a check for $2,000 for the recycling period between April and October 2011.
It's not just about the money, Zuanich said.
"It's teaching kids: What most people consider trash can be turned into something and used again," she said.
Zuanich's 8-year-old son, Tyler, who helps with the recycling collection at the school, owns a Capri Sun backpack made by TerraCycle.
This year's TerraCycle money will help Northshore with playground improvements and anti-bullying programs organized by the school's parent-teacher fellowship board.
Local businesses have joined TerraCycle brigades to raise money for charity, too.
Spud.com, a Seattle-based grocery delivery service, is offering TerraCycle recycling of yogurt cups, chip bags, energy bar wrappers, wine corks, cereal bags, cheese packaging and spreads packaging.
Customers, who have donated more than 1,600 wine corks since March, put the items in their delivery bins. Spud takes them away on the next delivery visit and donates 4 cents to local charities for every item.
Some TerraCycle brigades, such as the Method refill pouch brigade, are allowed to accept only one brand of packaging.
Most others, however, can accept any brands that meet the materials requirements, such as the Scotch tape brigades, which are allowed to accept all brands of plastic tape dispensers and plastic tape cores for recycling.
Benefits of recycling with TerraCycle, especially in a school environment, are educational on and off campus, Northshore office administrator Linda Ogilve said.
"These children go back home and teach their parents," she said. "There's a ripple effect."
Sarah Jackson: 425-339-3037, sjackson@heraldnet.com.

Join a brigade
See www.terracycle.com to sign up for a brigade.
Waiting lists: TerraCycle limits the number of brigades collecting certain popular items. Recently, the brigades for wine corks, energy bar wrappers and chip bags were full, for example, but you can be put on the waiting list. All brands: Brigades with openings now include drink pouches; tortilla and tostada packages; cereal bags; plastic tape dispensers and cores; lunch kit trays, lids, film and wrapping; diapers and wipes plastic packaging; toothpaste tubes and caps, toothbrushes and floss containers; glue sticks, bottles and tops; and 30 types of beauty product packaging such as lipstick cases and hand lotion tubes.
Specific brands: Brand-specific brigades with openings include Colgate Wisp mini brushes; nine types of Kashi packaging; Method refill handwash pouches; five types of Revolution Foods packaging; Sprout Baby food pouches; CORE nutrition bar and meal wrappers; and Dropps laundry detergent pouches.
Tech items: Brigades for electronic items include inkjet cartridges, MP3 players, keyboards and mice, cell phones, digital cameras, GPS units, graphing calculators and toner cartridges.





Story tags » EverettNorthshore Christian AcademyRecycling

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