Terracycle is one of the “green” businesses profiled in Richard Seireeni‘s Gort Cloud: The Invisible Force Powering Today’s Most Visible Green Brands. In this interview with Ode, TerraCycle co-founder and CEO Tom Szaky proves his company is not just talking the green talk, but also walking the green walk.
TerraCycle co-founder and CEO Tom Szaky doesn’t believe in a conflict between environmental values and the bottom line. He built a profitable business based on new uses for garbage. TerraCycle collected more than 100 million packaging items last year—potato chip bags, juice pouches, yogurt cups—and recycled them into tote bags, school supplies and other products.
Your goal is to eliminate the idea of waste. Is that really possible?
“In nature, garbage doesn’t exist. Humans create garbage by choosing to put items in trash cans. If you start to see all these items we choose to throw out as valuable, then you don’t have garbage at all. Nature has all these different solutions for by-products of its systems. What we’re doing [at TerraCycle] is going waste stream by waste stream and creating specialized solutions.”
What is “upcycling”?
“With upcycling, you value all aspects of the item and don’t treat any aspect of it as waste. So, for example, we have yogurt cups we’re making into gardening pots. We say, Let’s not melt it down, but find a new use.”