Emory Joins Gillette, TerraCycle Recycling Initiative Over Composting Difficulties


Emory University recently became one of 37 colleges participating in Gillette University’s recycling pilot program in partnership with recycling company TerraCycle, which specializes in handling hard-to-recycle materials. The program encourages students to recycle their used disposable razors, cartridges with replaceable blades and associated packaging in public deposit Pitches Across the country.

By joining the program, Emory will have the ability to act as a drop-off location for razors. In a May 24 email to the wheel, Marielle Christie, senior account manager for TerraCycle, wrote that if the University decides to act as a razor collection site, the location will be coordinated in the fall.

The students who Register for the program by June 3 will be Between in a raffle for the chance to win a year’s supply of Gillette or Venus razors, two tickets to an NFL game at Gillette Stadium, or a heated razor. A winner from each school will be announced by the end of June, according to Christie.

The university program — now in its first year — was created in the hope of retraining valued 2 billion razors and spare blades are thrown away each year in the United States, which Christie has called a “garbage epidemic”.

“Recycling programs are local and community efforts, so we encourage students to sign up and participate not only for the chance to win the prizes, but also for the opportunity to divert this super unique waste stream and niche of the already-crowded landfills we have in the United States,” Christie said.

Christie explained that disposable razors are a “very neglected waste stream” because they are made both plastic and metal, and therefore cannot be recycled by traditional ‘curbside’ methods in the blue recycling bins. To avoid being landfilled, razors should be collected with the purpose of separating metal and plastic components.

“Through our partnership with Gillette, we strive to inspire Emory students to rethink what waste is, as well as raise awareness that solutions exist for items that might otherwise appear unrecyclable,” wrote TerraCycle founder and CEO Tom Szaky in a May 4 post. e-mail to the wheel.

Photo courtesy of M. TinDC/Creative Commons

Daniel Sagarna (24C) helped bring the program to Emory after his friend’s father, TerraCycle administrative director Richard Perl, asked him to publicize the program on campus and assess how well students were receptive to the idea. Sagarna collected student signatures on a petition to involve Emory in the program. The petition was then given to TerraCycle and the University administration.

Although Sagarna said the number of signatures was not disclosed to him, he noted that students were generally supportive of the idea.

“Every time I explained to someone one-on-one, face-to-face, what the whole partnership of the program was, they thought, ‘That’s a really good idea. That’s something I haven’t thought of either,” Sagarna said.

All Gillette products collected at drop-off point Pitches will be cleaned and sorted according to the composition of the materials. The products will then be broken down and used by manufacturing companies to produce goods such as outdoor furniture, shipping pellets, storage containers, building tubes and sports fields.

The idea behind the program is not new – Gillette first partnered with TerraCycle in 2019 to create the “world first national razor recycling program” and offer drop-off locations. However, companies wanted to better reach the younger generation, which Christie says is more likely to to prioritize sustainability. Gillette and TerraCycle were inspired to create a branch of the program and competition specifically dedicated to colleges.

Sagarna agreed with Christie, explaining that teenagers and young adults have environmental issues to deal with.

“It’s unfortunate, but it’s up to us, because we’ll be the people living here in 40, 50, 60 years,” Sagarna said. “The fact that we’re young and we’ll have more and more power as we grow up, it’s really great that they’re using that.”

Emory’s participation in the program follows two years of waste management issues.

During the 2020-21 academic year, Emory’s compostable waste was landfilled, as the University’s former composting partner succumbed to compost market failures in September 2020. Without a composting partner amid the pandemic, all compostable waste was diverted to landfill. Emory’s reliance on single-use plastics – such as takeout containers and personal protective equipment – has also increased during the pandemic.

Pre-consumer material, which includes waste from food preparation that is disposed of before consumption, began to be composted again in the summer of 2021 after Emory shape a new partnership with the waste management company Goodr.

However, the University again encountered challenges with composting in the 2021-22 academic year. All post-consumer materials, such as food scraps and dirty towels, from the Clairmont campus were buried because residents did not properly sort their trash between designated bins. Clairmont’s compost was thus “contaminated” by non-compostable waste, according to a March 25 email sent to the Wheel by Associate Vice President for Facilities Management David Forbes. As a result, Goodr could not properly compost post-consumer materials from Clairmont.

Sagarna noted that while students can work personally to properly sort their compost, he doesn’t think enough people will pick it up.

“At this point, you really have to start changing the way we think about [sorting and composting]“said Sagarna.”[Changing how we think about it] kind of relies a little more on the school and changes the way the school operates.

Joining the program brings Emory closer to becoming a sustainable institution, Sagarna added.

“The goal is to eventually become as eco-friendly and sustainable as possible,” Sagarna said. “It definitely paves the way for other things to come in the future.”


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