Ten Things I Love About Terracycle

Although I haven’t really written about them in awhile, it is certainly no secret that I am a huge fan of Terracycle – the now hugely popular ‘liquid worm poop’ fertilizer company. I can still remember when I first heard about them – at the time they were just a couple of young entrepreneurs at Princeton trying to make things work on a shoestring budget. Part of me was kicking myself for not thinking of the idea first (haha), but I was also very excited to see someone helping to raise awareness about vermicomposting!

We’ll they’ve certainly come a LONG way since then – they’ve attracted a massive amount of media attention, their sales have gone through the roof (showing no signs of slowing down any time soon), they even went head to head the billion dollar mega fertilizer corporation, Scotts (see: Scotts Miracle-Grow Sues Terracycle?). According to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer (thanks to ‘Friendly Worm Guy’ for passing that one along!), that battle cost them $400,000 in legal fees. Thankfully they weathered the storm and were able to settle the dispute (agreeing to change their labeling).

Here is some other interesting info from that same article:

It wasn’t easy raising capital, and TerraCycle, based in Trenton, has yet to make a profit. But already its products have been embraced in the United States and Canada by corporate bigs like Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Target and Whole Foods.

Fourteen thousand stores – and counting.

And get a load of sales: $70,000 in 2004, $500,000 in 2005, $1.5 million in 2006, an estimated $4 million this year, and a projected $8.6 million in 2008.

In another five years, Szaky (pronounced ZACK-ee), a CEO who’s “really not much of an eco-freak or recycler,” envisions sales topping $50 million. Don’t laugh. Inc. magazine last year dubbed TerraCycle “the coolest little start-up in America” – and where it finishes is anybody’s guess.

TerraCycle lawn and garden products are made from 100 percent recycled garbage, thanks to the red wiggler earthworm known as Eisenia foetida. The worms’ excretions, or castings, are brewed into a “compost tea” and packaged in recycled plastic milk jugs and soda bottles collected by schoolchildren around the country. TerraCycle pays them a few cents per bottle – $78,000 so far.

So what is it exactly that I love about Terracycle? Here are the “ten things” (in no particular order):


1] They’ve clearly demonstrated that ‘green’ entrepreneurs (or ‘ecopreneurs’) can make it big too!
2] They’ve helped to raise awareness about worm composting – I can only imagine what the future holds!
3] They epitomize my Compost Guy motto – ‘turning wastes into resources’
4] Speaking of mottos, they have a great one too – ‘Better, Greener, Cheaper’
5] In 2003 they won the $1 million Carrot Capital Business Plan Contest – yet turned down the prize money when it became clear they’d be required to stray from their original vision! (i.e. it’s not just about the money for them). This is a prime example of how…
6] They’ve dared to be different!
7] They’ve harnessed the unbelievable potential of the web to get their message to the masses – in fact…
8] They haven’t even had to spend ANY money on marketing or advertising (according to the Philadelphia Inquirer article mentioned above)
9] The stuff really works!
10] Not content just to rest on their laurels in the ‘worm poop’ market, they have also been expanding their line of products – still making everything from ‘garbage’


Oh, and one more bonus “thing”: 11] They have an awesome website! Check it out:
http://www.TerraCycle.net/

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[tags]worm poop, worm castings, vermicompost, worm compost, worm tea, compost tea, terracycle, scotts, fertilizer, organic fertilizer, recycling, green products, ecopreneurs, entrepreneurs[/tags]

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Comments

    • James McConeghey
    • April 15, 2008

    Looks like an amazing company. I’d never heard of Terracycle and am interested in learning more about them.

    • Patricia
    • June 13, 2008

    Hello Bentley, do I need to dilute my tea? what I do is I use 2 recycle bins stacked with the active worm compost on the bottom. I water the top which drips into the bottom which drips into a round pan underneath. I then dump all the pans into a bucket and use where needed. I know it won’t hurt anything to use full strength but is it wasting by not diluting? BTW, I started harvesting my batch compost and I haven’t even made a dent after 5 wheelbarrows full and a very sore back. I realize it will take time to figure out the best way to do this short of taking a loan and buying a separater!!! LOL TIA Patricia

    • Jon
    • November 22, 2010

    That Terracycle guy has really latched onto your trade, yikes. I feel like the eco-capitalist approach is interesting, that is -using investors money to make money off of upcycling, but does he actually know what he’s doing? Is this actually good for the world of vermicomposting?

    The instructions of the worm poop spray is to apply to dirt and leaves. Why the leaves?

    He seems to be someone who, either driven by the investors interests or by his own zeal, is above all concerned with selling a product. I dont see a passion for raising awareness. What he is doing is encouraging people to buy his product, not change their consumption/disposal habits and embrace composting. If that were the case he wouldnt have a product to sell because everyone would be making their own worm tea. “We figured out how to liquify it” he says. He’s not trying to make vermicomposting more easily accessible like you are. He’s intentionally obscuring the process and claiming profit.

    I will for the moment be thankful that a company is proving non chemical alternatives to household/backyard fertilizers on walmart’s shelves, and spreading ideas of recycling and upcycling to children. But, I just fear that worm poop in a can – as it blurs the line between nature and a product – forgets to mention that personal responsibility is not found in a purchase alone.

    I tried to voice my discomfort. Although my ideas may seem contradictory, is anyone else feel uneasy about worm poop for profit?

    • Bentley
    • November 23, 2010

    Hi Jon,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Please keep in mind that I wrote this article quite some time ago. Since then, I have in fact become somewhat more uncomfortable with what they are doing based on some things I’ve learned etc (and should probably take down this post or add a disclaimer).

    I should point out, though, that I have absolutely zero issues with a “worm poop for profit” concept (or with starting any sort of worm honest composting business enterprise). We all have to earn our keep somehow, and I think it’s fantastic when people are able to launch a viable business focused on their vermicomposting passion (not referring to the Terracycle people by the way).
    BUT, it should be about EDUCATING (with legitimate information) the public as much as it is about generating revenue.

    One of the things I’ve always wondered about with Terracycle is the worm tea in a sealed bottle concept. There’s no way it can be microbially active (at least not with beneficial aerobic microbes anyway) yet sit on the shelf like that. Of course, they aren’t too interested in revealing their secrets in that department, so who knows.

    Anyway – thanks again for chiming in. Reminds me that I need to review some of these older posts.

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