Trash Becomes Treasure in Trenton NJ

Going green, Peachy — By Roberta on September 8, 2009 at 7:06 pm
terracyclebag opt Trash Becomes Treasure in Trenton NJ

Terracycle tote from cookie packages

There is a lot  of trash and very little treasure in Trenton, NJ these days.  But nestled in a graffiti-covered warehouse in a gritty urban enterprise zone, is a company named Terracycle, that is literally turning trash into treasure faster than you can say Rumpelstiltskin.

Terracycle calls it upcycling rather than recycling and it is a brilliant business concept. When you recycle, you expend energy to break down trash and reform it into something else.  When you upcycle, you re-use trash by re-purposing it. Upcycling is what you do when you store nails in old coffee cans or make curtains out of old sheets.  You basically take trash and make it into something else so it is not trash anymore.

Terracycle’s business plan is based on the premise that there is no such thing as trash.  Everything can be reused and must be, if we are to keep the whole planet from becoming nothing but a giant trash bin.  The idea is to do away with landfills by re-purposing and re-using as much as possible.

How it Started

CEO Tom Szaky founded the company in 2001 when he was a freshman at Princeton.  He and a friend hit on a scheme to make organic plant fertilizer by feeding table scraps to worms and using the resulting  worm dung as a natural, nitrogen rich plant fertilizer.  The plant fertilizer, packed in used plastic soda bottles, was a hit.  Soon orders were pouring in.  In

terracycleproduts 279x300 Trash Becomes Treasure in Trenton NJ

Terracycle plant food

2003,  Szaky dropped out of school to devote his full attention to Terracycle.  By 2006 the plant food was available nationwide, the company was making money, and Szaky was expanding  his product line by exploring other upcycling possibilities.

Today the company makes more than fifty products, from shower curtains and flower pots  to backpacks and pencil cases, using a variety of discarded items including  drink packs and cookie wrappers.  The upcycled products are sold by major retailers such as Walmart, Target and Home Depot.

But here is the best and most unique part of  Terracycle’s business plan. The company has more than 30,000 collection teams nationwide, collecting cookie wrappers, or drink packs or whatever.  Millions of people participate–not only individuals, but also schools, churches, and neighborhood groups who raise funds this way.  If you want to partiipate, you can read about the program and sign up for it on their website. Go take a look.

Terracycle gets all its materials from these collection teams or brigades.  Now, how brilliant is that?  They get their raw materials. Non profits get a fundraiser, and trash that would usually end up in a landfull is transformed into something new and useful.  Everybody wins, including Trenton, New Jersey. I think Terracycle deserves  a whole bunch of peachygreen kudos for the greenest business concept I’ve heard about in quite a while.

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  1. Terracycle deserves credit for taking the lead on cleaning up the environment and making us more sustainable. Rumplestiltskin!

  2. Roberta says:

    I love this business model which helps the planet, schools and non profits, and makes money at the same time. No flies on that generation Y or whatever they are– they are really thinking outside the box:-)
    Thanks for stopping by. Always nice to see you:-)

  3. Roberta says:

    I think so too– and I love the fact that it is providing 55 good jobs in a city with all kinds of urban issues of poverty and unemployment– no downturn in the green jobs area I think:-)

  4. Maybe having to see how we over wrap our products will make packaging design more fluid and tasty! I mean visually!

  5. Roberta says:

    I know what you mean–Who could not like a Chips Ahoy totebag?

  6. Amy says:

    Just yesterday my daughter came home from school with a Terracycle fundraiser packet – she is so excited to participate. Usually, she has to sell wrapping paper and candles (not at all eco-friendly). Very cool concept!

  7. Roberta says:

    wow that’s another cool side effect Amy– kids get to participate in a meaningful way in cleaning up the planet by collecting stuff for Terracycle AND they make money for a worthy cause at the same time. A wonderful learning experience I think– glad your daugghter is excited and thanks for sharing ,

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