According to Tom Szaky, co-founder of New Jersey-based TerraCycle, "Garbage is opportunity, garbage is great." Every component of TerraCycle's products -- tote, messenger and lunch bags; office supplies; garden supplies and more -- comes from garbage. "Our contents are garbage, and we package it directly in garbage," explains Szaky.
The company's flagship product, TerraCycle Plant Food, is an all-natural, all-organic, 'goof-proof' liquid plant food made from waste (worm poop). It is packaged in reused soda bottles, so every product on the shelves can look a bit different, turning mass-reproduction capitalism a bit on its head. (You can find their products at Whole Foods, Home Depot, Wal-Mart and elsewhere).
According to Szaky, the really exciting thing about TerraCycle, however, is that the products actually cost less than conventional offerings from many competitors. It truly can be like turning garbage into gold, as one of the company's slogans goes.
The College Try. Princeton College Try.
TerraCycle co-founders Tom Szaky and Jon Beyer came up with the idea for turning solid wastes into fertilizer (via worms) when they were students at Princeton in 2001. Yes, people have been composting waste into fertilizer for millennia, but what the students brought to the equation were business and marketing smarts, as well as a low-cost process. They reprocessed Princeton dining hall waste, and worked their way to bigger things by winning business contests and securing investors.
These days TerraCycle offers an array of unique, "upcycled" products, such as lunch sacks made from discarded Capri-Sun and Hi-C containers (they were a huge hit with my sisters at Christmas!). Sign up to help the company's efforts to reclaim used cookie, drink, energy bar, cracker, yogurt and other packaging. You can earn 2 cents per container, 5 cents per large container or 6 cents a bottle for the charity of your choosing.
TerraCycle also makes messenger bags and backpacks, deer repellent, rain barrels, composters, seed starters, green cleaners, fire logs, binders, folders, pencils and more. The funky corkboards are made from wine corks, while pencils are made from newspaper scraps. Flower pots are made from 100% e-waste (such as crushed computers and fax machines). The pots are individually painted by inner city artists.
Get Your Graf On
At their annual Graffiti Jam, TerraCycle opens its doors to the public and invites children from community summer programs, local musicians and local food vendors. Urban artists are given a constructive outlet to express themselves. If the video below is any indication, it's also a lot of fun!
TerraCycle is an inspirational business that hope to encourage recycling, reuse, and thinking outside of the box. Our consumption has an enormous impact on the planet, but we can make a difference.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.