TerraCycle, a company that manufactures organic plant fertilizer, was started a few years ago by a then 19- year old Princeton University drop-out. Their product is simple: liquid organic fertilizer made from worm poop. Red worms digest organic waste and the resulting excrement is made into a liquid plant food. Worm poop fertilizer is not a new idea, but research from Rutgers University has helped substantiate the company’s claim that TerraCycle brand fertilizer outperforms standard chemical based home fertilizers. The company has grabbed shelf space across Canada and the US in WalMart, Home Depot, Whole Foods and Wild Oats and is expected to top $1.5 million in sales next year.
The most unique thing about TerraCycle is the way the product is packaged. The company uses 2 liter and 20-ounce soda bottles. Long gone are the days of refillable soda bottles in this country and no one to my knowledge has refilled them with worm poop in the history of soda. The TerraCycle folks have turned the favorite eco-mantra, reuse, into a reality. The common soda bottle (that has a ridiculously short life span once opened) is for once an environmentally friendly alternative packaging option. The bottles are washed and reused as is, a major step in the direction away from our dependence on petroleum based plastic containers. These plastic soda bottles are the most frequently recycled home product, so the TerraCycle bottle is easily accommodated into existing successful recycling programs after the fertilizer has made all your plants happy and healthy. The package will draw in even the least eco-conscious shopper, for the sheer novelty of buying the worm poop fertilizer in the soda bottle. If the company delivers on its promise of a high quality plant nutrient that competes with top of the line organic fertilizers, then TerraCycle has a real win-win offering for the customer and the environment.
TerraCycle has launched a model program to encourage students to help collect soda bottles for the fertilizer packaging. The company’s “Bottle Brigade” program provides schools, charities or churches with a large box to collect and mail the plastic bottles to TerraCycle. For each bottle collected, TerraCycle will give 5-cents to the school/organization or TerraCycle will preserve 10 square feet of rainforest land through the Nature Conservancy.
TerraCycle has created a simple yet extraordinary a new system of dealing with organic and plastic waste, while rewarding needy organizations for giving plastic bottles one last chance.