Innovation That Matters

Garbage into gold, via worm poop


Tom Szaky is passionate about worm poop. So passionate that he dropped out of Princeton to start Terracycle, a company that sells worm poop. Vermicomposting is the process by which earthworms eat, digest and excrete castings (aka worm poop). Water is mixed with the worm castings to produce a nitrogen rich ‘tea’ prized by gardeners who believe the mixture makes plants grow faster and healthier than chemical fertilizers. Szaky discovered the magic of worm castings when he was at Princeton. He and fellow student Jon Beyer developed a system to mass produce castings using millions of worms and organic waste from the university’s student dining halls, which they developed into liquid fertilizer. The New Jersey based company’s products are sold at The Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Target. Initial growth was slow but the four-year-old, 12 employee company projects USD 6 million in sales for 2007. At the root of Terracycle’s success is the use of free raw materials—organic waste—to manufacture their product. The green edge doesn’t stop there. Terracycle packages their liquid fertilizer in recycled soda bottles purchased for five cents each from a network of 3,400 elementary schools and non-profits holding fundraisers: the Bottle Brigade. The money is donated to a charity of their choice. Terracycle sells a dozen products, from potting soil packaged in recycled gallon milk jugs to seed starter produced in trays made from recycled paper. Terracycle call themselves eco-capitalists. Springwise loves how they’re turning garbage into gold, keeping waste out of landfills and producing an organic alternative to chemical fertilizers, while building a healthy business. We have no doubt the concept—and story—would work equally well in other countries. Time to contact them and propose setting up factories outside the US? After all, even green products lose their eco-friendly aura if they’re shipped long distance. Alternatively, get creative and start figuring out what else can be created from waste. For more waste-to-wealth inspiration, check out Ecoist & Ragbag and Ecoforms. Spotted by: Daniel Cooper



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