TerraCycle takes on plastic recycling’s “untouchables”


A company founded in 2001 by a 19-year-old Princeton University freshman is increasingly finding a home for "un-recyclable" plastics and bridging the gap between consumers of everyday items like drink pouches and the brand owners that create them. Now, Tom Szaky, a grizzled 28-year-old that was named to Inc. magazine's 30 under 30 list at 24, and his company, TerraCycle (Trenton, NJ), are reaching out to the plastics industry.

"[Terracycle] is extremely interested in talking to as many plastic manufacturing companies as we can," Szaky said. "From a plastics company's perspective, we're sort of like a Gore-Tex in the space, in that we can offer something that we don't think anyone else has—something that has a great story around it, great performance, and great price. So we'd love to find more companies that would like to use the materials."

From worm poop to waste streams
Founded as a supplier of an organic fertilizer based on worm excrement, TerraCycle transitioned into a new model for recycling in 2007 that allowed groups of people to form "brigades" that would collect items their municipal recyclers didn't want and then send them back to the product's manufacturer. That year, the company's first venture into the space, the Bottle Brigade, grew to 5000 participants. By August, TerraCycle launched the Drink Pouch Brigade, with founding sponsor, Honest Tea. In coming months, brigades for yogurt...
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