Making Money Two-fold From Trash

by Robert McMath
Natural plant food uses recycled soft drink and water bottles to reinforce its eco-friendly branding strategy.
Many brands tout an environmentally friendly message, but TerraCycle plant food may be the ultimate organic product.
TerraCycle Inc., Princeton, N.J., makes its all-natural fertilizer from trash, and packs the liquid product in recycled, 20-ounce plastic bottles. Even its shipping cartons come from recycled materials.
The upstart company is the brainchild of Princeton University students, who use worms to process compost into organic fertilizer.
TerraCycle gets paid twice—first when it collects garbage from other companies, and again when it sells the plant food.
In addition to distributing the product through regional retailers in New England, the company sells it nationally through Home Depot.
Consumers can spray or mist the plant food directly onto houseplants, lawns and gardens. It contains no toxins, pesticides or synthetic chemicals to harm plants or the environment. The plant food is safe around children and pets.
Users can apply the organic fertilizer in mass agricultural settings, distributed through the existing irrigation facilities of farms, vineyards and golf courses and parks.
Worm power
TerraCycle collects waste destined for landfills. The company turns the waste into compost and feeds this organic mixture to millions of red worms.
The company liquefies the excretions from the worms to produce the plant food.
Meanwhile, school children collect used soda and water bottles around the country. TerraCycle cleans the bottles and removes the labels.
It then fills the bottles with the liquid plant food and applies a full-body, shrink-sleeve label. A standard trigger sprayer tops off the bottle.
Because the company uses 20-ounce bottles from several brands—Pepsi, Coke, Dasani, Sprite, Canada Dry and Dr Pepper, the containers have different shapes and different colored “rings” from the original tamper-evident closures.
While most bottles feature clear plastic, some containers are green or blue.
The company collects used soda bottles by conducting environmental fund-raisers at hundreds of elementary schools across the United States. TerraCycle pays a nickel for each bottle.
The company has also partnered with numerous recycling centers as a source of these used bottles.
In addition to organizing recycling drives to collect bottles in schools, the company also offers a fund-raising idea in student sales of the bottled fertilizer to raise money for worthy school or community needs.
Students sell each bottle for about $8, with the school or community organization netting $4 of each sale for its own causes. This helps the students learn recycling and see recycling in action.
In addition, the TerraCycle facilities are open for student tours and class trips. This provides groups of all ages with a hands-on look at the “terracycling” process. And visitors receive free packages of the plant food, serving as a good introduction to the values of recycled packaging and eco-friendly manufacturing.
TerraCycle ties commerce and convenience with the merits of environmentalism. This creates a new concept of “environmental capitalism,” where anyone can make a positive change in the environment, in their community, or simply on their front lawn, garden beds or houseplants.
The author, Robert McMath, has been a marketing consultant for more than 30 years. Through his NewProductWorks, he has advised major companies. He is the author of What Were They Thinking, a book chronicling the whys of product successes and failures. Contact him at 607.582.6125 or Visit the Internet site: