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Handshake Talks With Terracycle: A Hippie Success Story

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For Tom Szaky, it started with a dream, the environmentalist itch, and a little weed. Fast-forward to a decade later, and it’s clear that Szaky (silent ‘s’) has come a long way.

As a Princeton University freshman in 2001, Szarky was shocked at how much waste he saw on the Ivy League campus.  Not just the lack of recycling opportunities, but also the waste of food in cafeterias and the overall loss of resources.  That, combined with a fall break trip to Montreal where he learned about using worm compost to grow better pot, and an idea was born.

Szaky is now the founder of Terracycle. The company “makes affordable, eco-friendly products from a wide range of different non-recyclable waste materials.”

In other words, you send them your trash, they make it something worth using. Obviously not all your trash—but before you throw away that M&M wrapper, it’s worth checking out their site.

The idea behind the company is making environmentalism profitable for big-business.

In an interview with Handshake magazine, Albe Zakes, a vice president at the company said, “they drastically favor manufactures or partners with green initiatives. But it’s not a hard and fast rule since they do sell to Walmart and Target. The concept is helping them become more green.”

Terracycle is essentially trying to sell the idea that an eco-business can be profitable—and it’s what people want. Once the big companies start seeing a demand for green-friendly goods, those companies will start stocking more of those goods.

Currently the company has a presence in Brazil, Canada, Mexico, the U.S. and the UK. But “by the end of 2010 we expect to be in Sweden and Ireland. In 2010, almost all of South America and Western Europe.”

You might be wondering, does the company practice what they preach?

Well, yes. Tom Szaky’s favorite product is the Capri Sun Messenger bag. There’s nothing quite like walking into an important meeting with billionaire investors with a recycled workbag.

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