Companies team to upcycle Clif Bar wrappers


We recycle glass, plastics and paper. But, science hasn't yet figured out a cost-effective to recycle the wrappers used to keep your favorite energy bar fresh.

"Wrappers have metals, they have plastics fused into each other - to create the lightest type of packaging, which is really the best thing to do, except that makes it not recyclable," said Tom Szaky, Terracycle CEO.

Twenty-six-year-old Princeton drop-out Tom Szaky runs a fast growing New Jersey start-up called Terracycle. They're teaming up with the Bay Area's own Clif Bar to find a way to reuse these wrappers.

"A good way to get our wrappers out of the landfill is to turn them into something else, to upcycle them," said Szaky.

What's the difference between recycling and upcycling? In recycling you melt or break the product down then recast or mold it into something new. In upcycling, you take the product as is and - in this case - weave it into something new - like a tote bag. And it doesn't stop there.

"From spiral bound notebooks for kids, or backpacks or all sorts of thing," said Szaky.

Szaky's company will do the upcycling. But, Berkeley based Clif Bar is literally putting in its' own two cents. The company will donate two pennies for each wrapper to the non-profit of the saver's choice. They'll even send you an envelope and pay the postage.

"You fill it with all the wrappers you can, two hundred or more if you can stuff more in, and then when it's full you send it in to Terracycle," said Diana Simmons, Clif Bar.

That exactly what Shira Gallagher plans to do; she's a therapist with Bay Area youth centers -- a Hayward non-profit that runs group homes and provides independent living skills for at risk teens. She's counting on the money to help their programs.

"Yes, we are a fledgling non-profit in a system that continues to suffer from budget cuts; our budget does not keep up with inflation," said Gallagher.

"Right now we have over 800 participating collections locations, individuals or groups and over 200 charitable organizations are benefiting," said Simmons.

Clif Bar says so far, 300,000 wrappers have been collected. They expect products including tote bags and noteboks to hit store shelves at big retailers including Target and Wal-Mart this fall.

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