Their recycling solutions help create new products.

How they started.

Tom Szaky founded TerraCycle on a simple premise: everything can be recycled. But it's the company's unique solutions for hard-to-recycle products that have redefined the term "garbage" and revolutionized how everyday people and organizations deal with everyday waste.

What was your motivation for creating TerraCycle?

I wanted to find something where I could really make a difference in the world. Garbage is a massive problem and I thought maybe I could try to solve it. I was also really interested in the idea of a social business. In school, you learn that the purpose of business is profit — and I just thought there should be more to it than that.  

What was the impetus behind your commitment to the environment? To people?

I was really interested in the aspects of a social and triple bottom line business, with putting people and planet before profit. You hear people say they want to change the world and I really thought it. That was and is a goal of mine. I wanted to do something that solved a big problem.

What’s your trick for making a profit when your business model relies on looking beyond profit?

We are constantly innovating. Our business would have been stagnant if we hadn’t taken advantage of some opportunities when they came our way or hadn't looked for opportunities to create.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I didn’t have a specific role in mind, but I always enjoyed entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is amazing because you can really influence the world quickly and globally.

Are your partners/customers looking for ethically-driven solutions you provide — or do you find yourself educating them about the issue?

A little of both. Our partners want to give their consumers a recycling option, so we give them the first step in moving away from what would be a linear solution (throwing it away) to at least recycling the object. Sometimes, manufacturers think they are doing the right thing with the way they have designed products or packaging but don’t realize they have rendered it unrecyclable by using black plastic or colored glass for example.

You learn that the purpose of business is profit — and I just thought there should be more to it than that.

Tom Szaky, TerraCycle CEO

What are you listening to right now?

My wife and I just had our second son, so I am listening to a lot of newborn cries.

What are you reading right now?

I’m very involved in all aspects of our business, so I’m always reading business presentations, proposals or emails.

If you could change one thing in the world right now, what would it be?

I would try to reduce consumerism. Our society loves to buy and consume and throw away. These throwaway products and packaging are what cause the mounds of garbage piling up in landfills and washing up on beaches. So instead of buying tons of disposable stuff that’s just going to have very short lifetimes, I encourage people to think about buying consciously. That simply means knowing that everything that you buy will be waste. And then buy according to that thought process.

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