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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

When the worm turns

Yet another corner was turned this week by the little company that could, TerraCycle the upstart organic fertilizer company that didn't want to be. TerraCycle which produces and markets a fertilizer familiar to most organic gardeners, worm feces or "vericomposting" as it is known in Napa Valley; it's what those little guys do - the worms, not the company.

Anyway, I digress. They - the company not the worms - announced that they have put on their "Greed Hat" and are commencing operation by stocking their worm fertilizer at national giants Home Depot and Wal-Mart. The move is born of necessity as well as expediency according to entrepreneur and CEO 23-year-old Tom Szaky. who said, "We don't want to be just an organic plant food sold in little organic stores. We want to compete on their big playing field." Or to paraphrase, TerraCycle no longer wants to be a big worm in a little pond but rather a little fish in a big can of worms or no, a big fish in a small pond or, wait for it, a little worm in a big fish - no that’s not it but you get the idea.

TearraCycle started in 2003 almost as an accident when Szaky spied worms in a friend's compost and had an epiphany, that’s Greek or Latin or something for light bulb.They immediately set up shop in Trenton and started a community penny trade economy in collected recycled plastic bottles. They packaged the worm fertilizer, kept the neighborhood clean and fed the worms lots o garbage and voila, a brand is born. At something like $7 a bottle business has been good; sales for 2005 were expected to reach $500,000.

Now for the good news the fertilizer is organic, yes but more to the point it looks as though it has caught the attention of big business and that could be a genuine plus for the environment all around, just don't start packaging six packs with those nasty plastic ring connectors that wind up in everybody’s waterways.

by Harlan Weikle
Greener Magazine

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