Energetics Incorporated recently launched an upcycling program to collect non-recyclable or hard-to-recycle items that will be transformed into a variety of useful products, reducing the amount of overall landfill waste produced by the company and saving life-cycle energy. The program is underway in both the company’s Columbia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. offices, as well as in the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Manufacturing Office in Washington, D.C., where Energetics employees work on-site.
Energetics employees deposit candy wrappers, chip bags, cleaning product packaging, energy bar wrappers, and writing instruments in collection boxes located throughout each office. Employee volunteers then send the collected items to TerraCycle, a company that converts the waste into products such as shopping bags, flower pots, park benches, and fire logs. These products are available for purchase on the TerraCycle website and through major retailers such as Walmart and Whole Foods.
For every item collected, Energetics receives points from TerraCycle that can be redeemed for a cash donation to a nonprofit organization or charity, or to support efforts to plant trees, feed the hungry, or provide clean water to global communities.
Winnie Kwok, a web applications developer at Energetics, started the program and coordinates the partnership with TerraCycle. She was inspired by a friend’s efforts to start an upcycling program at another company and wanted to provide Energetics employees with a simple way to make the company more environmentally friendly.
“We generate so much waste—it’s important to reduce, reuse, and recycle it,” Ms. Kwok said. “Upcycling is an easy way for people to help the environment.”
Ms. Kwok also noted that upcycling provides benefits beyond even traditional recycling.
“For example, candy wrappers normally end up in landfills or, if recycled, the materials are melted down into their plastic components and then reformed, which takes a lot of energy,” she said. “Upcycling, on the other hand, does not destroy the candy wrappers, but instead reuses them to make other products such as insulated coolers, kits, and bags.”
In addition to Ms. Kwok, the upcyling employee volunteers are Julie Chappell, Caroline Kramer, and Marc Sigrist in the Columbia office, and Tenley Dalstrom and Natalie Kempkey in the Washington, D.C., office.
Energetics (energetics.com) participates in numerous other sustainable practices through its Walk the Talk initiative that reduce the company’s impact on the environment, including purchasing renewable energy certificates equal to 20% of our total electricity use; using only energy-efficient appliances; and encouraging employees to use public transportation, bicycles, or carpools to get to work.