Worm Excrement Can Be Profitable

ordinarypeopleLet’s put this in the “who knew” category.

Tom Szaky, the 23-year-old Princeton dropout set out to be a smart entrepreneur, not an environmental hero. His growing business is built on organic fertilizer made from worm feces, then bottled in recycled plastic bottles.

The company, TerraCycle, markets plant fertilizer created by “vermicomposting” — harvesting worm excrement. It sells the product in 20-ounce (567 grams) plastic soft drink bottles, many gathered by school children. It employs 10 people in a warehouse in economically depressed Trenton.

Those business choices were born not of idealism but to maximize efficiency and keep costs down.

“We’re in Trenton because the rent is very cheap and labor is abundant,” said Szaky. “The decisions were made by wearing the greed hat … but ironically we’re doing the right thing.”

TerraCycle Plant Food has sold for around $7 since early 2004 in organic groceries and independent garden shops, and earlier this year began appearing on shelves in Wal-Marts across Canada and Home Depots there and in New Jersey.

Sales for 2005 are expected to reach about $500,000, and Szaky hopes to triple that next year with a planned launch in Home Depots and Wal-Marts nationwide.

Turning worm excrement into profit [CNN]