Monday, July 7, 2014

Starting TerraCycle

If you are interested in starting the TerraCycle program at your school, it is a worthwhile and meaningful yet intense process. It seems simple: collect trash, ship trash, receive money. Essentially that is the gist of the project, but my experience working through the process has shown that challenges can pop up along the way. The point of this blog is to address these issues as they arise, to make the TerraCycle program a seamless process for you!

I walked into our Garden House last week to piles upon piles of trash. Well, to me it was gold, because I knew it was all eventually going toward providing a surgery through SmileTrain. But needless to say, it was trash that needed organizing. Luckily my Type A personality, which has a tendency to make my head spin with the need for perfection, kicked in in the best sort of way and I got to the task. Today I’m going to talk to you about setting up your TerraCycle location to be the most effective.

First things first, the Garden House is basically an apartment that sits behind Millersville’s Civic and Community Engagement and Research Project (or CCERP) building. When Dr. Garner and I found it, it was an empty ranch-style shack that had been nicknamed “the Chicken Coop.” No one was using it, and we saw the potential for a usable building to house the Center for Sustainability. If you are choosing to implement the TerraCycle program, it is essential that you have a building set aside for it. There are four rooms in the Garden House, and we use every single one of them for TerraCycle items (honestly, we could probable fill a warehouse). There is simply no way, if done properly, that TerraCycle can be done entirely in a single room.

The way I found our Garden House was as follows: two rooms for the bags and boxes of items that people drop off, one room for sorting, and one for miscellaneous items. The two “storage” rooms had very little rhyme or reason to them, and this is something I recommend you set up a system for before you begin accepting materials. Most of our TerraCycle items are sent in by different dorms, so when we count and sort the items, we keep a record of the number of items by dorm. The way our house is set up is not entirely conducive to separating each dorm’s items, so it would definitely be helpful to make distinctly designated areas where each dorm’s (or however you choose to organize it) items can go.

The third room, the sorting room, is where I spend most of my time. In this room, there is a box for each brigade that we are signed up for. These boxes stay in this room. When they get full, I dump them into a shippable box (one that is the right size and will stayed taped shut) and eventually seal it and mail it. I will get into the mailing process tomorrow. Anyway, for me, it made the most sense to take one bag or box from the storage rooms into the sorting room so that I could count each item, make sure it goes into the right brigade box, and then slowly chip away at the mountain of trash. This has worked extremely well for me.

The miscellaneous room is where we keep items that cannot be sent to TerraCycle but may still have somewhere sustainable to go (i.e. aerosol cans cannot be sent to TC, but we have a place that recycles them). We also keep items like our gloves (some of the trash isn’t worth touching with bare hands) and extra boxes.

Read tomorrow’s blog post for information on receiving and shipping items!

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