Loving the Earth: Turning Trash Into Treasure

“What do you want to be when you grow up, Tommy?”

“A garbage man.”

“Why a garbage man?”

“Because you get to find a lot of neat treasures.”

This is one of my favorite (stories of) conversations between my husband and his mother when he was little.  He did not grow up to be a garbage man. I do feel like he is probably well liked by our garbage collectors, though!  We compost what we can, recycle like fiends, use cloth diapers, and truly do have VERY little garbage each week.  His OCD-like recycling organization skills are also likely appreciated by the curb-side sorters.

Having a child has not changed our recycling habits, although it became quite apparent to us early on that there are plenty of items that are just not recyclable.  One of these is the all-too-handy baby food pouch.  When we are out and about they have been SO nice.  Unfortunately, although we made sure to recycle the lids, it pained us a bit that the pouch had to be tossed.  Little did we know that this was not true!

This past summer my sister-in-law was visiting, and she gave her kids Go-Go Squeez applesauce pouches.  She commented on Terracycle (www.terracycle.com), the symbol for which she had noticed on the backside of the pouches.  She gave me the brief explanation that she could save the pouches and send them to the company, utilizing free shipping, to be recycled.  “Too bad your baby food pouches don’t have the Terracycle symbol,” she said.

That saddened but intrigued me.  If I couldn’t recycle the baby food pouches, maybe I could at least find something new to recycle, right?

I checked out the Terracycle website, and I was so impressed! How had I not heard of this before?  Recycling hard-to-recycle/non-recyclable items? Awesome!

Essentially, a person can register on their website and sign up for various “brigades”.  I promptly noticed that there was, in fact, an “Ella’s Kitchen” baby food pouch brigade, and they accept ALL brands of baby food pouches! Woohoo!  There is even a brigade to sign up for if you want to send in your Brita water filters, one for energy bar wrappers, and another for Capri Suns. I mean, GREAT idea, right?

Did I mention this is free?  I collected several months worth of baby food pouches in a box, logged into Terracycle to print off a packaging label, and voila…I dropped it off at a UPS drop box for FREE!

lana earth

I have now been collecting Go-Go Squeez pouches and will send them in once I have a box full.  One thing I have noticed is that Terracycle limits the number of people in each brigade at a given time, so you may have to wait if you want to get in the Diaper Packaging brigade, for example. (However, diaper packaging is recyclable, so no worries there!).

So what the heck does Terracycle DO with all of these previously non-recyclable items?  They make products, of course!  You can buy trash cans made of recycled Brita filters, a Capri Sun lunch bag, or a Cheetos scrapbook!  They also sell many green products like tree spikes and slug repellant. They created incentives for turning in large amounts of waste, so many schools and programs collect these items in bulk and send them in together.  You can redeem points to donate money to schools, plant a tree, purchase gloves for beach clean-up, and MANY other cool projects.

It seems Tom was right!  There are many treasures in the garbage!  With a little help from all of us, companies like Terracycle can turn trash into treasure.

If anyone is interested in collecting baby food pouches but don’t feel like signing up/sending them in, definitely feel free to get a hold of me!  I would be happy to send them in for you!

Lana Criswell is a born and bred Hawkeye fan who has lived in Iowa City for almost ten years! She came for college and never looked back. Lana has been married to her husband, Tom, for two years and is momma to Jessa (3.5 months) and Charlie, the dog. She finished graduate school nearly four years ago in speech-language pathology and works at Children’s Center for Therapy in Iowa City. She is excited to be able to work 80% time now and have some “girl time” with Jessa each week. Lana loves spending time with family and friends, cooking/baking, going to Hawkeye games, going on walks around the neighborhood with the dog, and reading.


  1. This is an awesome idea! My girls have been known to go through 6 of those Go Go Sqeez pouches in a day. If you’re ever at the N. Liberty Children’s Center, I’ve probably seen you. My daughter has OT there with Bree.


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