Stretching the Upcycling Boundary with Huggies and Scott
If you’ve read any of my articles on here, you probably know TerraCycle’s focus is on upcycling, the process of creating something of equal or greater value and quality from materials that may have otherwise been thrown away. We’ve done it by turning cookie wrappers into umbrellas, juice pouches into pencil cases, and LP records into clocks.
But what would you say if I told you we’re now going to collect packaging from Huggies, and a range of Scott paper products, from toilet paper to moist wipes?
At first glance, it would seem an odd choice. TerraCycle is very excited to be working with Kimberly-Clark. You might be surprised to know K-C is the personal products leader in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index. And that on the pre-consumer end, they’ve been making significant strides on reducing packaging waste, while also releasing a line of eco-friendly paper products called Scott Natural!
But still, will people want to make the leap, wearing products that were derived from infant and adult personal care products, even if it’s the packaging, not the product itself? The answer is yes, and I’ll tell you why, and how this partnership is a tight interlock of brand and market.
Rather then make something that is too far a leap for consumers to accept coming from the source material it came from, in this case, there is no leap - Huggies packaging will be made into diaper bags, bibs and other infant and parenting related products, and Scott brand packaging, which frequently comes in large bags when in bulk, will be made into durable, oversized reusable totes. Think of the large bags IKEA supplies in store.
Then watch what happens: Who collects this packaging? Schools, community groups, faith organizations and the like. Each piece collected earns them money going towards the charity of their choice. Can you see where this is going?
Your child goes to a preschool, which has been struggling for funding while the economy is faltering. You the parents decide to start collecting the packaging of the diapers you use on your children, and the school collects the paper towel, toilet paper, napkin and moist wipes packaging they use to keep the kids and school clean, raising money for their organization or one that supports them.
They get to teach the children an early lesson on how to creatively see new possibilities for what would otherwise be thrown away. Then next year when TerraCycle begins making products from these things, the children see the results. For parents, children, and teachers, this opens a possibility for them to shift how/what they see as waste.
So as you can see, just about any product, with some thought as to how to properly mesh with the brand, could be a potential partner with us.
Is there any company/category you could see not being appropriate for us and other upcycling oriented companies partnering with? Is there a limit to what consumers will accept as a product they’re willing to buy? If so, what else can be done with this packaging to likewise divert it from the landfill?