Now At 6 Walmarts: A Big Giant Excuse Destroyer

A frequent topic of conversation among business’s big thinkers is the importance of connecting with and more effectively engaging consumers. But how can you connect retailers, manufacturers and consumers with each other, simultaneously? It may have begun now, in the shape of a converted trailer now residing in 6 Walmarts.

The Terracycle Store Collection System is something that, beyond its ability to collect absolutely every material we typically collect for our upcycling based products, is something that I hope will be an example to other businesses: How to generate awareness of your company, while benefitting numerous other manufactures, retailers, and the community at the same time.

How does this happen?

In our case, it gives retailers a way to offer manufacturers an easy way to have their waste packaging collected, rather then ending up on the street or in landfills. It’s an easy win for both the retailer and manufacturer, and a way for consumers to do their part in waste reduction, a grass roots way to help the brands they like collect waste.

Inevitably, consumers will start asking if other brands can be collected, either those related to the ones they’re bringing in to return, or other ones entirely. This will bring other companies into the conversation, further reduce landfill load, and yes, increase business for us.

What these collection stations also do is create a literal version of the oft tossed around term, cradle to cradle design. People will come into their favorite stores, buy what they buy, bring the packaging back (or in the case of Sharpie, the actual product) which is then used to create new products, that are then sold in those same stores. The next step is to see how we can reuse what’s been reused!

The question that may come to mind for you is, will consumers make a point to keep and bring in the packaging for their purchases until the next time they go shopping?

It may take time for some, as any new habits/practices go, but we’re doing two things here to boost the likelihood: The collection unit is unmissably huge. It doesn’t gingerly sit in some obscure corner, as typical collection bins/barrels do now. It’s sheer size and clear signage of the type and brand of products each slot accepts takes out all guessing what this is about.

Add to that that each piece collected will result in 2 cents being donated to area schools (3 cents for people already part of one of our collection Brigades) and the motivation/type of person interested goes beyond those with environmental leanings.

Put it where people already are, rather then requiring they go out of their way, and you have a recipe for a potentially enormous impact.

Readers: What’s your business doing that connecting effectively outside the “green bubble”? Who’s accelerating the adoption of sustainable behavior effectively that you’ve seen?

Tom Szaky is the Founder and CEO of TerraCycle, Inc. a company that makes eco-revolutionary products entirely from garbage! TerraCycle, since its humble beginnings in a Princeton University dorm room, is committed to being a triple bottom line company. Tom at the ancient age of 19 learned about composting with worms. The concept of using tiny little worms to turn food waste into a powerful, organic fertilizer fascinated Tom, who was appalled by the amount of food discarded by his campus's cafeteria. Tom started TerraCycle with no investors from a friend's garage by building a Worm Gin where he could house millions of worms in a small area. He all but bankrupted himself and maxed out all his credit cards to build the machine. With the help of friends he would shovel pounds of rotten, maggot-infested food from the Princeton cafeterias. Without any money left over, Tom could not afford to buy bottles to package his fertilizer. That's when the sustainability gods smiled on Tom, who was up one night wandering the streets Princeton in search of an answer to his packaging dilemma. It just happened to be recycling night and Tom realized that millions of homes were putting billions of free bottles out on the curb once a week! That serendipitous moment set everything to follow into motion. Slowly he began to finance his infantile start up by winning business plan contests. Finally he hit the pay dirt! He won the million dollar grand prize at the Carrot Capital Business plan contest. However, the financiers of the contest wanted to move TerraCycle away from used bottles and away from it's environmental focus. Despite being on the verge of bankruptcy, Tom turned down the money. In the six years since then TerraCycle has grown to a multi-million dollar company that doubles in size every year. Still we are committed to our triple bottom line beginnings. Still making our products from other's people waste. Still based in an Urban Enterprise Zone in Trenton, NJ. Still a second chance employer. Find out how and why, here at

One response

  1. Where are these 6 WalMarts? I think this is a great idea. I am already a part of 9 of TerraCycle’s brigades. We have people all over town collecting – businesses, the library, and schools. Is this something you see spreading to more WalMarts? If so, how will things change for our collection efforts?

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