TerraCycle's History

Take a look at TerraCycle through the years. From its start in the early 2000’s to our current achievements and goals, we’ve always been a unique and interesting company to follow.


A 2020 Vision to Eliminate Waste

An unprecedented global pandemic challenged the world, and TerraCycle kept innovating to eliminate waste. TerraCycle recycled all types of PPE (personal protective equipment) for businesses and homes and drove the launch of the first large-scale PPE recycling initiative for disposable masks. Loop expanded to the continental U.S. and the UK and announced key partnerships to bring reusable packaging to quick-serve restaurants and beauty products. In the U.S., UK and France, in conjunction with major retailers, TerraCycle also launched the first-ever retail drop-off programs for all brands of beauty empties.

Thanks to our network of dedicated recyclers and hardworking staff, 2020 was another milestone year of firsts, collaborations, and impact.


The Launch of Loop

TerraCycle closed out the decade by unveiling Loop, a circular reuse system delivering the world's favorite brands to your doorstep in durable, refillable packaging, moving away from disposability and single-use for a less wasteful world. Loop launched in May 2019 in the United States and France, and is still growing. Offering more than 300 items (and counting), Loop provides anything from Tide detergent to Häagen-Dazs ice cream, to Tropicana orange juice to Milka Biscuits — all in reusable packaging. After using the products, customers put the empty containers back in the Loop tote to be picked up by a delivery service, cleaned and refilled, and shipped out to consumers again.

In other words, it’s the 21st-century milkman.


Another year of firsts

Kicking off 2018, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission qualified TerraCycle U.S. for its Regulation A offering, allowing the public to invest in the company's U.S. subsidiary for the first time. In the U.S., TerraCycle made its first acquisition, Air Cycle Corporation, a leader in regulated waste recycling, as well as launched a first-of-its-kind retail recycling program with New Jersey-based Subaru of America, Inc. In Mexico, TerraCycle and Trident installed used chewing gum receptacles in Mexico City, and Walkers in the United Kingdom launched the country’s first program for recycling crisp packets. TerraCycle’s beach plastics division expanded its work creating fully recyclable bottles for Procter & Gamble’s Fairy dish soap and Unilever’s prestige REN Clean Skincare line.


From Beaches to Bottles

TerraCycle was named a winner of the United Nations Momentum for Change Lighthouse Activity award. The honor was in recognition of its initiative with Procter & Gamble and SUEZ to create the world’s first fully recyclable shampoo bottle made with plastic collected from beaches and waterways. TerraCycle was also the recipient of the 2017 Green/Sustainable Business Achievement Award given by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In England, TerraCycle and Right Guard unveiled an outdoor gym made with recycled aluminum canisters and in Australia, TerraCycle and L’Oreal awarded their first playground made from recycled beauty products. TerraCycle opened operations in South Korea. 


SUEZ and TerraCycle

TerraCycle started the year by forming a groundbreaking partnership with Suez, who purchased 30% of TerraCycle France, UK, Sweden, Belgium, Netherlands and Finland. In the US, TerraCycle launched the world's first-ever recycling program for industrial adhesive packaging with Henkel, as well as the first-ever recycling program for contact lenses and their packaging with Bausch + Lomb. A unique baby car seat recycling program was also nationally implemented in partnership with Target. Internationally, TerraCycle opened national operations in China, with offices in Shanghai.


Making garbage great

TerraCycle partnered with Unilever to collect and recycle deodorant canisters at Drogerie Markt (DM) locations across Germany, recycling the collected waste into bicycles that were donated to children’s charities. The program expanded to over 1,600 DM locations across Germany.

In Canada, TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Box initiative with Staples was inducted into Environmental Leader’s Product & Project Awards Hall of Fame. In July, Tom Szaky’s third book, Make Garbage Great: The TerraCycle Family Guide to a Zero Waste Lifestyle, was published by Harper Design. One month later, the second season of TerraCycle’s TV show Human Resources aired on the Pivot network. After receiving highly positive ratings, Pivot announced plans to begin filming season three in early 2016.

Learn more about Make Garbage Great


Zero Waste Boxes are born

TerraCycle launched its Zero Waste Box division, bringing recycling solutions to almost all forms of waste. Within months, Staples, Office Depot, and Home Depot relisted hundreds of different Zero Waste Boxes to recycle everything from coffee capsules to three ring binders. TerraCycle continued its global expansion with the launch of TerraCycle Japan, with partnerships to collect cigarette and cosmetic waste. In addition, Progressive Waste Solutions, Canada’s largest waste management company, purchased 20% of TerraCycle Canada. TerraCycle signed a TV deal with Pivot for TerraCycle’s TV show Human Resources, which premiered in August 2014. Shortly after airing, Pivot contracted a second season for 2015.

Learn more about Human Resources


TerraCycle celebrates 10 years

In 2013 TerraCycle expanded to Australia and New Zealand, marking over 20 countries of operation. By this point in time TerraCycle had over 100 programs running, collecting and recycling everything from plastic gloves to chip bags. In the US, the Cigarette Waste Recycling Program won awards from PR News, PR Week, the EPA, and many other organizations. In November, TerraCycle partnered with the City of Vancouver to run the first city-wide recycling program for cigarette waste. Landbell GmhH, a large waste management company in Germany, purchased 25% of TerraCycle Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. Tom Szaky, was named one of the Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneurs of the Year.


Cigarette recycling

2012 marked the ninth straight year of revenue growth as well as the launch of the world’s first recycling program for cigarette butts. After launching the program in Canada it was quickly expanded to the US. With help from over 40 million dedicated participants around the world, TerraCycle diverted 2.5 billion pieces of waste from landfills and over $6 million donated to schools and charities. In 2012, TerraCycle launched 14 new free recycling programs to collect everything from deodorant tubes to coffee capsules to baby bottles. The company also won several major awards including the UN Leader of Social Change Award.

Watch the SHFT Documentary


From Flip Flops to Playgrounds

In 2011, TerraCycle opened in Norway, Spain, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Over 30 new waste collection programs were launched and total staff grew to over 100 employees. TerraCycle also donated over $3 million to charities in 2011 for the total waste collected. The same year TerraCycle’s team in Brazil broke the world record for largest recycled sculpture ever made. TerraCycle also released Trash Tycoon, the first online game about repurposing difficult-to-recycle waste. Tom Szaky was named to the Forbes Impact 30 List, which recognized entrepreneurs wrestling with some of the world’s most pressing issues.


From TV to Time Square

In spring 2010, Walmart introduced the TerraCycle Hot Spot, an eco-display in all Walmart stores across the US that paired products like Capri Sun pouches with TerraCycle's recycled and upcycled solutions for that waste. At the same time, TerraCycle set up its first pop-up shop in NYC's Port Authority Terminal. By mid-September, TerraCycle's Drink Pouch Recycling Program had collected and recycled over 50 million drink pouches, paying out over $1 million to schools and non-profit organizations in the process. TerraCycle renovated its offices late in 2010, creating new space for the company's ever expanding workforce.


TerraCycle goes global

The Brigade platform grew with the addition of over 25 new programs and the launch of TerraCycle in Brazil, Canada, and the UK. In March, Tom’s first book, Revolution in a Bottle, hit store shelves. On Earth Day, TerraCycle’s reality-show, Garbage Moguls, debuted on The National Geographic Channel. And in mid-2009, TerraCycle opened its first retail location in Princeton, NJ.

Watch a clip from Garbage Moguls.


Garbage Moguls

In February 2008, Capri Sun signed on as the leading sponsor for the Drink Pouch Brigade, allowing the program to expand dramatically. That same year TerraCycle teamed up with Target to run an innovative ad campaign on the cover of Newsweek’s green issue. Newsweek readers were asked to remove the cover and fill it with used Target plastic bags. Over 47,000 people returned their waste bags to TerraCycle. The collected bags were upcycled to make the Retote: the world’s first reusable tote bag made from used plastic bags. In 2008 a number of new Brigade programs were added, and as a result, Brand Packaging named Tom Szaky the Brand Innovator of the Year.


Sponsored Waste Is Born

In 2007 TerraCycle grew to nine different product offerings, including concentrated versions of its worm poop fertilizer, as well as a biodegradable Seed Starter and Potting Mix. Meanwhile, TerraCycle’s Bottle Brigade reached 5,000 participating locations. In August 2007, TerraCycle launched the Drink Pouch Brigade, with founding sponsor Honest Tea. The program was designed collect and repurpose used drink pouches. Neither company knew what to expect, so 100 open slots were authorized. In less than 24 hours they were filled! On the heels of this success TerraCycle launched the Yogurt Cup Brigade and the Energy Bar Wrapper Brigade, sponsored by Stonyfield Farm and Clif Bar, respectively.


The Coolest Little Startup in America!

In 2006, TerraCycle Plant Foods were widely available in the US for the first time, with both Walmart and The Home Depot carrying the plant foods nationally. In July of 2006, Tom and TerraCycle were featured on the cover of Inc. Magazine, as the #1 CEO in America under 30 years old as part of their coveted 30 under 30 Awards. By year’s end, TerraCycle had sold over $1 million worth of liquefied worm poop packaged in reused soda bottles.


Off to the races

Walmart was the first major retailer to come on board in the US, with The Home Depot following shortly after. Before long, TerraCycle Plant Food was being distributed across many major retailers in North America. As demand grew, TerraCycle introduced TerraCycle African Violet and TerraCycle Orchid plant foods. TerraCycle’s Bottle Brigade was also launched to help collect used soda bottles to package its worm poop fertilizer.

Watch Big Ideas for a Small Planet on SundanceTV


Starting to grow

TerraCycle Plant Food was soon listed in The Home Depot and Walmart in Canada. As the company grew, TerraCycle moved from its offices in Princeton, NJ, to a much larger building in Trenton, where it is headquartered to this day. By allowing graffiti to be freely painted on its walls, TerraCycle became a mecca for urban artists from all over the world. TerraCycle also teamed up with local artists to throw its first annual graffiti jam. Since then, TerraCycle’s building has been repainted every few weeks with brand new urban art.


A million dollar question

Tom decided to leave Princeton University and pursue TerraCycle full-time, growing the team to half a dozen people. In April of 2003, TerraCycle won the coveted grand prize at the Carrot Capital Business Plan Challenge, complete with $1 million dollars of investment. Unfortunately, the investors wanted to move TerraCycle away from making a product from waste. Despite having only $500 in the company’s bank account, Tom turned down the investment in order to stay true to TerraCycle’s mission of Eliminating the Idea of Waste®. CBC shot the first documentary to feature TerraCycle.

Watch the CBC documentary on TerraCycle


Millions of worms

Tom emptied his savings accounts, borrowed money from friends and family, and maxed out his credit cards to create a massive worm poop conversion unit. Most of Tom’s time was spent shoveling rotting food out of the back of Princeton University’s cafeterias. Broke, exhausted, and ready to throw in the towel, Tom met Suman Sinha, an angel investor 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, NJ.


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 kitchen scraps to red worms and using the resulting fertilizer to feed some of their indoor plants. The results were amazing and the idea for TerraCycle was born: to help eliminate the idea of waste by making quality fertilizer from food waste.