How gel wrappers are being turned into playgrounds and helping fund schools
Six years ago Gu Energy Labs and international recycling organisation TerraCycle partnered to launch a free recycling program for performance nutrition packaging.
Linked to a charitable fundraising points scheme for participants, the Performance Nutrition Recycling Program (PNRP) offered the opportunity to recycle single-use packaging from any brand – not just Gu – by collecting and shipping the packaging to TerraCycle. TerraCycle upcycles the packaging and diverts it from landfill. Gu covers all the shipping costs and upcycling fees, meaning the service is free for participants.
Shipments over 2 pounds (900 g) in weight qualify for TerraCycle points in the PNRP, with each pound earning the participant 100 TerraCycle points. These points can then be allocated to a range of charity gifts or redeemed as a payment of 1c per point to your choice of non-profit or school.
TerraCycle then converts the plastic packaging waste into shipping pallets, bike racks, park benches, recycling bins and more.
Now, on the sixth anniversary of the program’s launch, TerraCycle has announced some of the results and impact of the programme. To date, more than 1.7 million hard-to-recycle wrappers from energy gels, bars, and powder sachets have been upcycled, resulting in donations of over US$19,000 to non-profits and schools. In 2020 alone, the programme recycled 449,000 packets, enough to build 20 upcycled playgrounds. It was the single biggest year in the six-year history of the partnership.
“While we love seeing the ways our products help athletes achieve more, there is nothing more deflating than seeing spent gel packets on the road or trail during a ride or run,” said Celia Santi, Senior Brand Experience Manager at Gu Energy Labs. “This is where TerraCycle comes in to help divert waste from landfills.”
Gu Energy Labs is now pledging to collect and recycle all wrappers used during races at partner events. “We are thrilled that our partners are joining in our commitment to keep waste out of the landfill,” Santi said, “and we are looking forward to getting to two million pieces more quickly!”
Gu Energy Labs was founded in 1993 and specialises in sports nutritional products including gels, chews, drink mixes, waffles and supplements. TerraCycle is a waste management company with a mission to eliminate the idea of waste. Operating nationally across 20 countries TerraCycle offers a range of recycling, upcycling, and zero waste options for households, industry, events, and municipalities.
While TerraCycle operates in numerous countries worldwide, the PNRP is currently only available in the US. However, other brands such as High5 in the UK have partnered with TerraCycle to provide similar services and Gu is currently gathering feedback from athletes around the world to share with its distributors, with the hope of expanding into other countries soon. Similarly, Science in Sport has partnered with Enval to offer recycling solutions for its packaging.