Tom Szaky on reducing, reusing, and recycling for a better world - Kathy Varol
Tom Szaky
February 2, 2022   |   Episode #: 022

Tom Szaky on reducing, reusing, and recycling for a better world

Show Notes:

Tom Szaky is founder and CEO of TerraCycle, a global leader in the collection and repurposing of complex waste streams. TerraCycle operates in 21 countries, working with some of the world’s largest brands, retailers and manufacturers.

In 2019, TerraCycle launched Loop, billed as the “21st century milkman”. Loop partners with producers on a reusable packaging loop system replacing single-use waste. Loop is available in France, the UK, Canada, Japan, and is rolling out select operations throughout the 48 contiguous United States..

Tom is also the author of four books, Revolution in a Bottle (2009), Outsmart Waste (2014), Make Garbage Great (2015) and The Future of Packaging (2019).

Call to action 

Be mindful when you’re shopping. The only silver bullet in sustainability is to stop consuming, but if you need to buy something, look for the highest quality brand that will last the longest. Look for products that come in reusable containers, and if reusable isn’t an option make sure that the packaging is recyclable. Remember, our dollars are votes.

In this episode we discuss:

  1. Why “rolling down hill” is the path to creating change within current business models
  2. What the creation of a TV show and successful business partnerships have in common
  3. The most impactful thing each of us can do to support a sustainable world

Key Takeaways: 

  • One theme that struck me in this conversation was the innovation power that can be unlocked by going back to the origin of a problem and reframing the way we look at it. For example, to understand the limitations of sustainability work, Tom went back and analyzed how and why our global waste problem started in the 1950’s.
  • The power of empathy to create change. Tom’s empathetic approach to business is powerful and refreshing. He understands that the way to create scalable change fast is to work with the largest companies out there—not to work against them. I loved his comment to their sales team, that if a company’s reason for signing on with TerraCycle is that “it’s the right thing to do”, the salesperson hasn’t dug deep enough to show why this decision is actually good for business. Aligning objectives creates sticky and lasting change.
  • I appreciate TerraCycle identifying where the needs and gaps are to the waste problem, and creating solutions to fix those—from developing ways to recycle just about everything, to building a cross-company system for reuse packaging. TerraCycle isn’t trying to replace current retailers or manufacturers, but instead, they are building backend waste solutions that support other companies.


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