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TerraCycle's History

2013 - International expansion and ten million cigarette butts

2013 US History Photo

2013 was a year of exciting growth and expansion for TerraCycle. One of the strongest areas of this massive growth was TerraCycle's Cigarette Waste Brigade, which launched in 2012, but thrived in 2013. In Canada, TerraCycle CEO and Founder Tom Szaky went on a highly successful media tour to promote the success of collecting over 10 million cigarette butts in the first year of the program. The tour included stops at the Lang & O'Leary Show on CBC, hosted by Kevin O'Leary, a billion-dollar investor who also stars on Shark Tank. In the US, the Cigarette Waste Brigade won awards from PR News, PR Week, the EPA and many others. Overseas, the program launched in Europe in France, Germany and the Nordic regions. In November, terraCycle partnered with the City of Vancouver to run the first city-wide recycling program for cigarette waste.

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2012 - The World's First Recycling Program for Cigarette Waste

2012 US History Photo

2012 was another record year for TerraCycle. It marked the 9th straight year of revenue growth as well as the launch of the world’s first recycling program for one of the most commonly littered items on the planet – cigarette butts. After launching the program in Canada in May, it was quickly expanded to the US and Spain with help from Santa Fe Natural Tobacco and British American Tobacco, respectively. The collected cigarette butts are recycled into plastic pellets and used to make industrial products like shipping pallets.

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2011 - From Flip Flops To Playgrounds

Flip Flop Playground image

In 2011, TerraCycle launched operations in Norway, Spain, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, Denmark, Israel, Belgium, Argentina and the Netherlands. Launched over 30 new waste collection programs and grew in total staff to above 100 employees globally. TerraCycle also donated over $3 million to charities in 2011 for collected waste.

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2010 - From TV to Time Square: TerraCycle hits the Big Time

From TV to Time Square: TerraCycle hits the Big Time

In Spring 2010, Walmart introduced the TerraCycle Hot Spot, an amazing co-display in all Walmart stores across the US, that paired familiar products like Capri Sun, Lays and Oreos with TerraCycle's recycled and upcycled products made from waste.

Also around that time, TerraCycle set up its first Pop-up Shop in NYC's Port Authority Terminal for two months. An eco-sanctuary in the heart of the city, the store included TerraCycle's upcycled wares as well as bins where visitors dropped off waste to be upcycled and recycled.

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2009 - Garbage Moguls Goes International

To start off a big year, TerraCycle launched two new national product lines! Target showcased TerraCycle’s line of clocks, coasters, and picture frames made from either vinyl records or circuit boards, while Petco started selling our All-Natural Pet Products!

The brigades program also grew with the addition of over 25 new waste streams and the launch of TerraCycle in Brazil, Canada, and the UK.

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2008 - Sponsored Waste Goes Corporate

Sponsored Waste Goes Corporate

The idea behind Sponsored Waste is simple. TerraCycle partners with Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) manufacturers to administer free programs which pay consumers to help collect non-recyclable packaging, which is then upcycled or recycled into eco-friendly products. In January of 2008, TerraCycle met with Kraft Foods and by February, Capri Sun signed on as the leading sponsor in the Drink Pouch Brigade. The program was opened up to thousands more participants.

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2007 - Sponsored Waste Is Born

Sponsored Waste Is Born

In 2007 the excitement spread as TerraCycle grew to 9 different product offerings at Wal-Mart and The Home Depot. TerraCycle was now selling concentrated versions of its worm poop fertilizer, as well as a biodegradable Seed Starter and Potting Mix. Unfortunately, all of this positive attention attracted some unwanted attention. A lawsuit was filed against TerraCycle by Scotts Miracle-Gro. The 2 billion dollar behemoth claimed TerraCycle had committed trade dress infringement and false advertising.

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2006 - The Coolest Little Startup in America!

The Coolest Little Startup in America!

In 2006, TerraCycle Plant Foods were widely available in the US for the first time, with both Wal-Mart and The Home Depot carrying the plant foods nationally.

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2005 - Up and Running!

Up and Running!

With a factory and staff in order, the only thing left to do now was to make some sales. Despite orders from the Canadian big box market, the room to grow in the American market needed to be addressed. Wal-Mart was the first major retailer to come on board in the American market, with The Home Depot USA following shortly after. Before long, TerraCycle Plant Food was being tested regionally all across the country; we were on the precipice of being a nationwide brand!

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2004 - Early Years

Early Years

TerraCycle steamed ahead with its first major sales to The Home Depot and Wal-Mart in the Canadian market. Although the initial order was modest, it got TerraCycle's foot in the door of big box retailers. Pretty soon, major retail meant major orders. TerraCycle needed staff, storage, machinery, and most importantly: a factory. Since the original office was based in Princeton and the Eco-Complex was located in Bordentown, it made logical sense to find somewhere in between the two.

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2003 - Who Needs a Million Dollars and a College Degree?

Who Needs a Million Dollars and a College Degree?

After spending more time developing the company than going to class, Tom decided to take a leave of absence from Princeton to pursue TerraCycle fulltime.

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2002 - A Man, Millions of Worms and a Lot of Debt

A Man, Millions of Worms and a Lot of Debt

After Tom placed 4th in the Princeton Business Plan Contest, he decided to go ahead with his idea anyway and start producing worm casting based fertilizers. He emptied his savings accounts, borrowed money from friends and family and maxed out his credit cards to buy a massive worm poop conversion unit.

Most of Tom’s time was spent shoveling rotting food out of the back of Princeton Cafeterias. Broke, exhausted and ready to throw in the towel Tom met Suman Sinha, a venture capitalist who cut the young entrepreneur a check and became TerraCycle’s first investor. With the money invested by Suman, Tom was able to rent his first office space at 20 Nassau St. in Princeton.

2001 - Boy Meets Worm

Boy Meets Worm

A freshman at Princeton University, 19 year-old Tom Szaky took several of his friends up to Montreal for Fall Break. There he stayed with friends who were feeding table scraps to red wiggler worms in a composting bin and using the resultant fertilizer to feed some of their indoor plants. The results were amazing! Tom was looking for a business idea to enter into the upcoming Princeton Business Plan Contest, early the following year. He had his answer: use worms to eat organic waste. He could make a quality fertilizer and address a major environmental issue at the same time!