Old car seats. Cigarette butts. Used contact lenses. Most people think of this kind of detritus as future landfill, but Tom Szaky sees all this and more as recyclable. He’s the CEO and founder of TerraCycle and its newest initiative, Loop. Both are circular economy solutions that bridge the gaps between consumers, corporations, and waste. TerraCycle, founded in 2001, is a private recycling company that focuses on capturing and repurposing hard-to-recycle items by partnering with corporations and governments. Loop, launched publicly in mid-2019, takes on the problem of waste even more aggressively by working with brands to provide reusable packaging for common consumer products — think Tide laundry detergent or Häagen-Dazs ice cream.
HBR asked Szaky, a global leader on reducing waste, about what he’s learned about how consumers, companies, and the government are — or aren’t — helping to reduce the massive amounts of waste humans create on a daily basis. In this edited interview, he also offers advice for business leaders who are interested in pursuing circular models.