By Maddie Orton
As Chief Design Junkie at TerraCycle, Tiffany Threadgould has a unique job description: transform trash into treasure.
“TerraCycle runs programs where we collect hard-to-recycle materials. So, things that don’t go into your regular municipal recycling,” she explained. Items like toothbrushes, granola bar wrappers, and drink pouches, that may contain a blend of various plastics or have multiple layers.
“We have two solutions for the waste that comes in,” Threadgould said. “One is upcycling and one is recycling.”
Threadgould is one of the creative minds behind the upcycling efforts. She helps develop items for sale like Capri Sun pouch backpacks, circuit board coasters and bicycle chain picture frames.
I stopped by for easy-to-make holiday gift ideas, and her thoughts on where to start with sustainable materials.
“Look to the potential of what you’re getting rid of,” said Threadgould. “Like something that you would normally throw away, take a look at it again, and think about the qualities that it has and preserve those qualities in the next life.”
For example, turn wine corks into a cork board.
“Would you take an old frame that you have lying around the house, and paint something like this?” I ask.
“Yeah, you can use one type of spray paint to go around the outside edge, that’s really easy, and then a whole bunch of wine corks,” said Threadgould. “You want to make sure they’re a similar thickness, and then you can use an industrial glue like you can get at a craft store or a hardware store.”
“What was this originally?” I ask picking up a tray.
“So, this was an old picture frame and old hardware from a dresser that I had,” she said. “So that’s what the handles are on the outside edge. I put some colorful cardboard on the inside and arranged it in a way that I liked, and then you’ve got this new serving tray.”
She adds, “The glass goes back on, and that’s what protects the cardboard underneath, and then you can use it for the holidays.”
“This is a project you can make out of an old glassware that you were going to recycle, but it has some kind of a memento quality still to it,” Threadgould says about a glass lantern. “So basically just taping it off and adding an acrylic frosted spray paint to it, and then you take that off and you have this luminary, where you take a wick that you can also get at a craft store, an old hardware washer, you put oil inside, and you can light it.”
Threadgould says it’s actually gift wrapping where she most enjoys showing off the art of upcycling.
“Why buy new gift wrap? You can reuse things from around your house,” she said. “I cut this out from an old cereal bag. Basically, you just need a paper fastener, and some scissors. I have the holes all pre-punched, so you have holes punched on each end and in the center, an then you can spread it out and you have a little gift bow.”
Tutorials for this and other do-it-yourself projects are available on the TerraCycle website. Threadgould says anyone can be a designer. When it comes to upcycling projects, there are no such things as mistakes — only opportunities for something old to be transformed into something new.