Retailers partner with TerraCycle to honor Earth Day with unique recycling programs

As the recycling trend grows, the need by manufacturers for recycled materials has grown exponentially. Sadly, a large percentage of difficult to recycle material winds up in our nation’s landfills, often due to little infrastructure or incentive by waste management companies to accept it.

New Jersey-based TerraCycle specializes in collecting and upcycling what’s often considered non-recyclable packaging and products, then turning it into useful, affordable, eco-friendly products.

TerraCycle's Brigades collect items like used drink pouches and candy wrappers and upcycle them into useful products

A number of corporations partner with TerraCycle to sponsor the well-known Brigades that collect these materials from schools and organizations across the country.

Now two major retailers have joined in the recycle-upcycle trend to give formerly useful items a second life.

Old Navy and Office Depot will sponsor in-store recycling programs for consumers in honor of Earth Day.

Office Depot’s “take back” program will let shoppers bring in any type of used mechanical pencil, pen, dry erase marker or highlighter – any writing tool made of plastic – and receive a coupon for a new one from Sanford products, makers of Sharpie, Expo and PaperMate). The used writing tools will be collected, then shipped back to TerraCycle to be upcycled into products like trash cans and desk organizers.

It’s not necessary to throw your pen in the trash, said Ellen Bishop, Sanford’s Merchant for Writing instruments.

Office Depot's take-back program will accept all Sanford's plastic cased writing products

“It can be made into new, useful products,” Bishop said. “There’s no need to fill your landfill with pens that don’t work anymore.”

Bishop doesn’t think this kind of retail take-back has been done before. But it fits with their company priorities.

Office Depot was recently named the Greenest Retailer in the office supply category by Newsweek.

“(It’s) a company priority to (go) to the next level for our green efforts,” said Owen Torres, Office Depot’s Public Relations Manager.

“(And) we think it will be great for our customers,” adds Bishop.

Just bring in your used pens into Office Depot and drop them as is into the collection box. You’ll get a 50 percent off coupon for a new Sanford writing tool to replace the old one. No need to print and clip a store coupon – your used pen is the coupon!

Flip flops collected at Old Navy will be upcycled into playgronds

At Old Navy, they’ll be collecting old flip flops, the ones lots of us have stashed in closets and under the bed. This is the first time a national retailer has launched this kind of effort to collect and recycle flip flops.

Just bring in old ones or even wear them in, drop them in the colorful collection box, then shop for new ones from Old Navy’s colorful flip flop wall.

Old Navy sells millions of flip flops each year, said Greg Roth, northern California District Manager for Old Navy. “They’re almost considered a disposable item,” he said.

Drop off your old, used flip flops in Old Navy's bright collection box

“The basis of this program was: how could we sell product and look at it from an environmental standpoint,” said Roth.

This perspective comes from their parent company, Gap Inc., known for its commitment to green. One of the founding members of the new Sustainable Apparel Coalition, in 2008 Gap Inc. formed their internal Environmental Council, a sort of think tank to help Gap how they use resources to reduce their environmental impact.

“We’re making a big effort in something we already sell, to turn it into something that’s not another piece of trash,” says Roth.

“(It’s) a no-brainer to support Earth Day with this,” he said.

Retailers get the sustainability message, says Albe Zakes, TerraCycle’s Vice President of Media Relations.

“All the retailers working with TerraCycle are doing this because they think this is what consumers want,” he said. “Unless we reinforce that, the green movement will lose momentum.”

“If you have old flip flops you don’t think you’ll wear again, get them recycled,” said Zakes. “If you have a drawer full of worn-out, dried up pens, clear that drawer out – and you’ll get a couple of coupons for (your) efforts.”

“The more you support (these programs), the more you’re going to see them,” Zakes said.

Participating in these programs will make a difference – you’ll get to get rid of items that are just taking up space and get coupons for cool new ones!  Both programs run nationwide at all Office Depot and Old Navy stores.

  •  Office Depot’s pen take-back program runs April 17-23 
  • Old Navy’s flip flop recycle program runs from April 22 -May 21

One Response

  1. Love Terra Cycle. I have purchased their items before for gifts and people always love them. Thanks!!

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