In exchange for donations to their association, they collect thousands of trash each year.

The mechanics have been well equipped since the time Charlotte Gentrick set up her hometown, in Saint-Maurice (Val-de-Marne). A box is placed at the entrance to the library annex and is surrounded by indicators that clearly identify the nature of the waste that should be placed inside. At the moment, these are pumpkin compote and packaging for bread or pastries.

Bit by bit, the population fills it up, until Charlotte Gentrick takes over. “Once every two weeks,” she says. Another card is installed in the main library, and another still in an elementary school downtown, is raised on the same frequency. And it is not infrequent, from now on, that direct contact with the mother of the family is made by people who bring crates full of the required waste.

One million pieces of waste have been collected since 2014

Then all the boxes go through Charlotte Genetrick’s chest, in the basement of her house. She sorts the waste to remove bugs and when her batches reach enough weight — “30 kg for example for compote,” she identifies — she sends them via UPS, free of charge to her, in Troisvilles, in the Lille district, where the TerraCycle sorting center is, a company in recycling sector.

Since 2014, La Francilienne has collected more than one million pieces of waste with a total weight of 22 tons. Pumpkin compote, bread and brioche packaging, as well as toothbrushes, coffee capsules, pens and other supplies (highlighters, highlighters, correctors), cosmetic product packaging, tights … In short, all this plastic waste is “technically recyclable, But it’s not so in traditional screening channels, because there are no real markets behind it,” explains Alyssa Kao, TerraCycle’s PR Officer. “They end up buried in landfill or incinerated, which in our opinion is the worst of two solutions to treatment,” adds Aurélien Dumont, who is responsible for member relations at Zero Waste, a non-governmental organization that promotes the Zero Waste approach.

Donation waste

TerraCyclé, which was created in the United States in 2001, made a specialty from these under-studied plastics. “We sort them again, before cleaning and crushing them to make plastic pellets,” Alyssa Kao continues. It is then sold to manufacturing companies who use it to make new products of all kinds. Furniture, watering cans, boxes, and covers for stadiums or sports fields.

In March 2021, TerraCycle said it recycled 7.762 billion waste in the 21 countries in which it operates. Everything, initially, was collected by individuals. The company is claimed by more than 202 million people around the world. This is the cornerstone of the collection system created by TerraCycle. Recycling programs are launched in partnership with companies that market this hard-to-recycle waste*. About twenty are currently open in France. Who wants to register there as long as they have reached the legal age and there is still a place. Then it is up to these volunteers to organize their own collection system and create their own battalions.

The other view? money. Or, more specifically, donations. Each recycled waste brings money to the brigade that collected it, which can then redistribute it to the union of its choice. The rules change depending on the programme. Pumpkin compote, for example, collects a point that can be exchanged for 0.01 euros.

I raised 20,000 euros in eight years

Don’t do much to say that. Despite this, last year Charlotte Gentrick raised €1,639 and “more than €10,000 in eight years”, she identified. The mother mainly benefits from it ** “Dachshund without a sweet home”, an association of which she is a member collects abandoned Dachshunds, takes care of them, and puts them into relocation families until they find a new home.

If this amount is not the association’s main income, “it remains very important, particularly when donations from individuals tend to decline,” continues Charlotte Gentryk. David Schulz would not say otherwise. From Marguerittes, on the outskirts of Nîmes, Gardois is another active volunteer collecting waste for TerraCycle. So much so that it has also passed an important milestone which is the 1 million pieces of waste collected since it started in 2014 as well. He predicts: “We are supposed to reach 2 million by the end of the year.”

David Cholez also began wandering around the surrounding schools in search of trash, to the point of becoming a “Mister collection” for schoolchildren. “But, now that we are so well identified, we are regularly called in by individuals who suggest they collect waste in their vicinity and send it to us or pick it up,” he says. This is how Gardois is now able to collect between 300,000 and 400,000 pieces of waste a year now. “This has allowed us to raise 4,000 euros a year in recent years and 20,000 euros in eight years,” he says. These donations benefit the “Le marathon de la prématurité” association that he heads to help parents of premature babies. “We find accommodation solutions for them or we finance their trips between their home and the hospital, which are sometimes very far away,” he explains. We also buy equipment such as nursing pillows or night lights. »

Keep in mind that the best waste is the one you don’t produce?

For David Cholez, these kits for TerraCycle make it possible to do a double whammy, “by making it possible to raise up to a third of the association’s budget, relatively easily now, while making a good nod to the environment,” and launch- it. On the last point, Aurélien Dumont, in Zéro Waste, qualifies the same. “There is a lack of transparency on the part of TeraCycle about what is tangibly happening with the waste, and he regrets. How much is actually recycled? And what is the company doing for plastic for which there is currently no recycling solution?” We only launch recycling programs for waste that we know we can Take it back,” we give back to TerraCycle. It is the partnerships we forge with companies that allow us to remove the economic brakes on traditional screening channels.”

Here’s Aurélien Dumont’s second downside: “These TerraCycle-regulated collections should not be an excuse for companies using this packaging, which is difficult to recycle, not to try to improve or even better reduce.” He insists, noting that this should be the priority today. David Schulz and Charlotte Gentrick say they are well aware of these limits. But it’s also the plus point in the eight years for the groups they now have behind them. Over time, they became experts in recycling, identified as such in their cities to the point of regular intervention in schools. “And the first message is always to say that the best waste is the one we don’t produce,” says Charlotte Gentrick.

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