Review by Michael Smith

REVOLUTION IN A BOTTLE: How TerraCycle is Redefining Green Business
by Tom Szaky, Founder of TerraCycle
Published April 1, 2009 (no, this is no April Fools)
as a Paperback Original by Portfolio, a Penguin Imprint
190+ pages paperback – printed entirely on recycled paper
ISBN 978-1-59184-250-7
Price: USD 15.00

Tom Szaky dropped out of Princeton in 2002 to lead a startup company that makes useful stuff out of what other people consider nothing but garbage. Now TerraCycle is a leader of the eco-capitalist movement, which produces worm poop fertilizer and tote bags made from used juice pack and other products made from waste.

The author tells a fascinating tale on a number of levels – personal, business, and environmental.

As a child of middle-class immigrants, refugees to be precise, from Hungary to Canada,he gave up the security of an Ivy League education to sell worm poop in reused soda bottles. This couldl not be seen as a typical career path from someone out of such circles.

He argues that eco-friendly business does have to match the prices of their mainstream competitors as, while most consumers are rather eager to buy “green”, they will not if it costs too much. He is ever so right with that as well. Some people use the “green” and “eco” label to charge a premium and then wonder that, when things get a little tougher, business is falling.

TerraCycle, Tom Szaky's company, uses materials that other people throw away, thereby giving it a huge cost advantage.

Tom Szaky also explains how he convinced major companies such as Coca-Cola and Kraft to embrace “upcycling” programs – and why upcycling is so much better than recycling.

No idea is too crazy for terraCycle to test, it would seem. It even sells flower pots made from melted computers and VCRs.

This book should carry a health warning for reading it might make you give up everything and turn you to become an eco-entrepreneur. The author's can-do attitude can certainly become contagious and get someone thinking as too what one could do.

This book is the story of Tom Szaky but especially the story of TerracCycle, and how it began and nearly did not.

Tom, the son of Hungarian refugee immigrants to Canada, the country where he grew up from age four, tells in his own words and, as already mentioned, on several levels, of how TerraCycle was conceived and how it all begun.

His style of writing is extremely good and one does not want to put the book down. It reads much like a good novel rather than the kind of book that it really is and that makes for good and easy reading. Many a times the reader will find that he will be smiling at the anecdotes that are conveyed.

The author, who is the founder and CEO of TerraCycle tells it all and none of the mistakes made in business plan and in trying to secure financing are left out and nor are the efforts of how to equip an office with no funds at all; they did the obvious thing for a company dealing with waste – they got furniture out of dumpsters.

The story also tells how more than once supposed potential investors were only interested in an attempt to wrest the company and idea away from tom and his friend. Luckily they recognized the signs early enough and were able to thwart those attempts to take over the business and to change the very nature of it.

Tom Szaky, in his founding of TerraCycle also “invented” two new words, namely “eco-capitalism” and “upcycling” and both are good terms, in my opinion, describing the way we must go.

If we could all but learn, as TerraCycle has, to redefine and see waste as a resource rather than as something to be shoved under the carpet, or, in most, cases, into landfills, our capitalist system could re-root itself in Nature, and could transform problems into opportunities.

REVOLUTION IN A BOTTLE: How TerraCycle is Redefining Green Business” is a real good read and well worth reading; no doubt about it. I can gladly recommend this book to our readers.

In the book Tom makes a comment as to the recycling of plastic bottles on page 48 in the first paragraph and this is a real valid point and one that as equally valid as to glass bottles and glass jars. I shall come to that in an editorial to come.

In summing up, I can but highly recommend this book.

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009