Is Globalization Ever a Good Thing?


Courtesy of TerraCycle

So often, you read about the negative effects of globalization - homogenizing world culture, poor treatment of workers, jobs lost, lack of cultural sensitivity in the new areas of a world a business starts up. Nasty business, and not something I'm in support of. Why then are we about to start operations in the UK, doing largely the same thing we're doing here in the US? The difference is enormous, yet the impact universal. Universally positive.
Instead of just elbowing our way into a new country, presuming that a common language means a similar culture, we enlisted the help of Think London an amazing organization funded primarily by the London Development Agency , the Mayor's sustainable development agency.

It's zero cost to companies wanting to start operations in London. Having a knowledgeable, agile, local partner who literally and figuratively speaks the language, knows how to ask the tough questions of us that we'll likely encounter, can help with finding the right space, partners, and even message to convey about what you're doing, has been invaluable.

What will TerraCycle UK look like?

We're working closely with Kraft, starting out with products that we in the US might not immediately think of as popular, but are huge in the UK: Kenco and Tassimo, two instant coffee brands. Tassimo are primarily single serving packages, which we'll turn into everything from coasters to weekend bags, giving what would otherwise be a rather short useful lifespan of this packaging a much longer, interesting post consumer life.

Previously, this multilayered packaging was beyond the capability of recycling facilities to handle, and was typically used for energy from waste, basically incinerating it.

Kenco Eco Refills are packaged in "flexible film" (ie the same thick, resealable packaging Bear Naked Granola uses here) and while good for reducing packaging volume and weight and increasing product longevity once opened, they too are difficult and not particularly popular to recycle. We'll fuse layers of those into material sewable into a number of products.

Why start in the UK?

We learned that people in the UK are particularly savvy when it comes to the sustainability of consumer products, and yet, recycling percentage was relatively low. To give them an option to collect what would otherwise not be recycled, and give them a choice of what charity it would benefit is a clear win, both for them, and for the company whose products are associated with that action.

It will take some work on our part, as this is in a way like starting anew, in a place that many have never heard of us, the idea of upcycling or that what they're used to tossing in the trash can now be made into something entirely different. In Brazil, where some people make their entire living from collecting waste to be recycled, we had so much of an abundance, we had to compensate them by the ton rather than the piece.

So I ask you - Is globalizing, if done with consideration, cultural awareness, and local resources, something you see as adding value to the local economy and community. If not, why not?

More on Globalization:
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