12/31/2016 09:48 am ET Updated Jan 01, 2018

TerraCycle 2016 Recap: Looking Back on Our 15th Year

This year was one of historic significance. The global community had a front-row seat to developments on the world-stage of international politics, the movements of which have implications for this coming year and all those to follow. More connected by technology than ever, the world's citizens engaged in discussions of pressing issues like human rights and environmental sustainability, speaking to an increased willingness to convert values into action.

At TerraCycle, 2016 notched a decade and a half of dedication to the circular economy, corporate social responsibility and the renewal of the world's finite resources. Through free recycling programs, custom recycling solutions and partnerships with some of the world's largest companies, TerraCycle so far has engaged more than 60 million people to recycle in 23 countries, diverting nearly 4 billion units of difficult-to-recycle waste from landfills and incinerators and raising $15 million for charity.

Milestones this year include the launch of new programs that marked the first time TerraCycle has recycled in their respective categories. Henkel, a leading global manufacturer of industrial adhesives, including the LOCTITE® brand, became the first company to offer a recycling solution for anaerobic adhesive packaging. The main challenge with recycling the polyethylene [PE] plastic bottles and the reason they are not accepted by the conventional waste management infrastructure is due to the residual adhesive. Learning about the adhesives and how they cure allowed us to develop a solution and recycle this category of material for the first time.

The year also saw us finalize a partnership with SUEZ, one of the largest waste management companies in the world. Through the deal, SUEZ can bring TerraCycle's consumer-facing programs to its customers in France, the UK, Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden, and we gain access to perhaps the world's largest sales force dedicated to the circular economy.

Recyclability is among the top purchase drivers for a range of consumer products, and finding new ways to engage consumers and end-users on our programs adds value for current and potential partners. Instrument string manufacturer D'Addario this year launched their Recycle and Restring events, which bring recycling into local music stores across the country, showing communities what sustainability could do for them. Open Farm's #RecycleWithOpenFarm contest and Tom's of Maine's Green Your School Fund (a nationwide school science competition on which I had the pleasure of judging) were social media activations that demonstrated the power of digital eco-activism and its latent ability to bring people together over sustainability and CSR.

Unprecedented sales in our Zero Waste Box division showed that consumers are increasingly willing to pay a premium for sustainable goods and services, include those which solve for waste. Consumers enjoy the convenience and innovation of this turn-key recycling solution, and some companies (like paper shredders and waste management entities) have begun using the platform to expand their portfolio of services, diversifying their offerings and scaling for growth by piggy-backing on their own route logistics.

As it stands, waste is a negative value commodity: people pay to have it taken away. TerraCycle is in the business of solving for waste by not only capturing this refuse, but bringing value to it so that people will pay for products made out of recycled materials. This year called for a massive expansion of our international sales force to answer a growing demand for circular solutions at all levels of consumption, making for our most profitable yet. The challenge in 2017 will be to continue nurturing this market to ease the strain on the Earth's resources and move us towards a more sustainable, circular global economy.