Tom Szaky

Tom Szaky
August 27, 2019 Christina Mullin

Since one of the issues I’m preoccupied with is waste, I chose as Gamechanger someone who has created a successful business model repurposing waste. Tom Szaky, the CEO and founder of TerraCycle, a company that makes consumer products from waste.

I met Tom Szaky, years ago at a Green America conference I attended in San Francisco. He was one of the speakers and described to the audience how he started Terracyle.

The story began when he was a freshman at Princeton; he’d had the idea of packaging worm poop as an organic fertilizer. He borrowed money from family and friends and spent all his savings on a $20,000 “worm gin”—which can hold hundreds of thousands of the invertebrates—and then dropped out of college. With a $2,000 angel investment from a venture capitalist, Szaky started packaging the fertilizer in used soda bottles and selling it out of his car to local gardening centers. It’s available nationwide at stores like Target and Home Depot.

 In 2001, Szaky launched Terracycle, a company that collects and repurposes billions of pieces of trash and turns it into products like messenger bags made out of used Capri Sun packages, trash cans, chairs and more, and donating millions of dollars to schools and charities in the process.

This past May, Tom Szaky launched Loop, a groundbreaking sustainable shopping experience in an e-commerce platform that offers zero-waste packaging options for popular products in durable reusable containers that you return when finished for cleaning and refill.

 “Garbage does not exist in nature. In a natural system, any waste generated by one organism becomes a useful input to another. For example, a fox’s droppings may fertilize a nearby berry bush whose fruit may then become food for a bird. The bird might then become a meal for the fox, continuing the cycle. Any outputs generated in the system are utilized, and nothing is left to waste.

With the creation of synthetic materials, humans have broken this natural, cyclical harmony. While plastics and other man-made materials have allowed us greater and more cost-effective innovative freedom, when they reach the end of their life they become useless garbage that has no place in nature’s healthy cycle of input and output.”

 Did you know that Terracycle offers free recycling programs? These programs are national recycling solutions for typically hard-to-recycle waste streams. Join as many programs as you like to help reduce your impact on our planet:

You can also have your own zero waste boxes, which allows you to create recycling solutions for nearly every type of waste imaginable. The boxes can be purchased in various sizes here:

Watch his talk, “eliminating the idea of waste.”