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TerraCycle Turns Pens Into Trash Cans

Waste upcycler TerraCycle is making a push into creating more non-branded products with its new trashcans created with plastic from used writing items.

TerraCycle has partnered with Paper Mate, Sharpie and EXPO to collect pens, markers, highlighters and other writing products and packaging made by those brands. TerraCycle is also collecting pre-consumer waste from the companies' manufacturing processes, waste that the companies were already recycling.

Like with all of the other packaging and products that TerraCycle collects, the company is setting up collection groups, called Writing Instrument Brigades, that will gather and send in used items, earning two cents per item for the school, non-profit or charity of their choice. In the first four weeks of the program, TerraCycle brought in about 2,000 post-consumer writing items.

The plastic parts of the items collected through the brigades and from the companies themselves will be turned into trash bins that TerraCycle's George Chevalier said are likely to be in retail stores in the spring.

"Typically we're known for our heavily-branded products" - like bags made with cookie wrappers - "but with these plastics and writing instruments, it will be more akin to a traditional recycling process," Chevalier said.

The trashcans are made up of a blend of plastics, including the writing items, cookie wrappers, chip bags and milk jugs. A plastic laboratory recently started up at TerraCycle's headquarters has been working on making plastic blends with the characteristics needed for certain products.

With this foray into making items that are not branded, Chevalier said TerraCycle will be able to expand its reach to take in more types of waste, create more non-branded items and reach a much wider audience, like those who shy away from products covered in logos.

[Editor's Note: TerraCycle has clarified that although it intends to make the trash cans from waste plastic, it has not made a final decision on if the writing items will be used to make them.]


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