Tom Szaky

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Tom Szaky
Tom Szaky.TerraCycle Hi-Res Cropped.jpg
Born (1982-01-14) 14 January 1982 (age 39)
OccupationCEO of TerraCycle
Years active2001–present

Tom Szaky (born 14 January 1982) is the CEO and founder of TerraCycle, a company that makes consumer products from waste.[1]


Early life[edit]

Szaky's parents are medical doctors, and Szaky himself is an only child.[2][3] At age four, Szaky left his home in Hungary after the Chernobyl disaster.[4] In 1987, Szaky immigrated to Canada,[4] where he grew up in Toronto.[5] Szaky attended high school at Upper Canada College.[4][5] Szaky notes that growing up in Canada and around the strong conservationist movement there is what sparked his interest in environmentalism.[6] According to Szaky, he became fascinated with the concept of recycling after seeing the “astounding” things people threw in the trash, adding that the first television set he ever saw was being thrown in the garbage. This experience proved formative as he credits it with helping him understand that waste was a “modern idea.” [6]

He attended college at Princeton University, majoring in psychology and economics.[7] He dropped out during his sophomore year to focus on TerraCycle.[8]


Early on in his career, Tom started three small '' companies.[9] These were,, and[7] Building on his early success,  he attended Princeton University where he studied economics and merged his interest in environmentalism and social good with his entrepreneurial studies. Following an inspirational road trip to Montreal, Szaky discovered vermicompost and developed a business plan for the Entrepreneurship Club's annual Business Plan Competition that centered around the business model of converting garbage into worm poop fertilizer. Even though he placed fourth in the competition, the seed that would become TerraCycle was planted along with the company’s first product in mind.[10][11]


Armed with initial capital funding generated through family, friends and monetary awards earned via additional business plan contests,[12][13] Szaky purchased a $20,000 continuous flow composting system that converted organic waste from the dining halls of Princeton University[11] into fertilizer through the use of worms.[14]  It was at that time TerraCycle’s corporate breakthrough came, when Szaky realized that by utilizing discarded plastic bottles as the packaging for the fertilizer, which he engaged schools and local organizations to collect,[11][15] he could reduce production costs and allow the fertilizer to be marketed as “an entire product made of garbage.” [16][17][18]  In 2004, the company secured their first high-profile clients with Home Depot Canada and Wal-Mart Canada agreeing to carry TerraCycle products, thereby solidifying the company as a viable business.[11][19]

In 2006, Tom was named the "#1 CEO under thirty" by Inc. magazine in its July 2006 issue for his work in TerraCycle.[20]

In 2007, TerraCycle pivoted away from organic fertilizer manufacturing and began moving toward developing recycling solutions and collection systems designed to recycle products and packaging that is traditionally not recyclable through standard municipal waste facilities. Once collected, the packaging is cleaned and melted into hard plastic that can be remolded to make new recycled products. Since the company’s conception, Szaky and TerraCycle designed the world’s first recycling processes for cigarette butts, soiled diapers and chewing gum.[21][22][23]


At the 2019 World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Szaky announced Loop, a global circular shopping platform that utilizes durable containers that can be reused and/or recycled.[24] In May of the same year, Szaky launched the first trial of Loop in Paris, France.[25] Carrefour, a French multinational retailer and owner of one of the largest hypermarket chains in the world, was announced as Loop’s founding retail partner for the Paris trial with plans to make the Loop service available in its brick-and-mortar stores at a future date.[26][27]

The U.S. pilot program launched in late May in the Mid-Atlantic region of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Washington D.C, with Kroger Co., the country’s largest grocery retailer, and Walgreens, one of the nation’s largest pharmacy chains, as Loop’s founding retailers in the United States.[28][29] Due to consumer demand, additional East Coast markets were added just a couple months later. Loop will launch in Canada, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the western U.S. in 2020.[30]


Szaky regularly acts as a guest contributor within the sustainable business sector with published pieces in TreeHugger, mindbodygreen, Entrepreneur Magazine and World Economic Forum.[31][32]

Tom created, produced and starred in TerraCycle’s reality show, “Human Resources” which aired 3 ten-episode seasons on Pivot from 2014-2016 and is syndicated in +20 foreign markets and is also available to stream on Amazon and iTunes.[33][34]

He has published four books since 2009 [35] with the most recent release, The Future of Packaging: From Linear to Circular, debuting in February 2019.[36] They include:

  • Revolution in a Bottle (2009, 2013) [37]
    • Szaky’s first book chronicles the young CEO’s entrepreneurial beginnings featuring the establishment of TerraCycle.
  • Outsmart Waste (2014) [38]
    • Szaky’s second book focuses on the environmental degradation associated with the prevailing societal response to waste management.
  • Make Garbage Great (2014) [39]
    • The CEO’s third published work functions as a how-to-guide for an environmentally conscious lifestyle.
  • The Future of Packaging: From Linear to Circular (2019)
    • Szaky’s fourth book offers a road map out of the modern waste crisis through packaging design with perspective from 15 innovators in sustainability and was named the book “Most Likely to Save the Planet” by the Independent Publisher Book Awards.[40]

Awards and Recognition[edit]

Szaky and TerraCycle have received hundreds of awards and recognition for both his entrepreneurial endeavors as well for his efforts in sustainability from, but not limited to, the United Nations, World Economic Forum, Forbes Magazine, Fortune Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, Environmental Protection Agency [41] the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship, Waste 360, Inc. Magazine’s  "The No. 1 CEO Under Thirty," CR Magazine’s Responsible CEO of the Year and EY Entrepreneur of the Year.[42][43]


Szaky lives with his wife and children in Central New Jersey.


  1. ^ "TerraCycle's Szaky Gives Advice to Mission-Drivden Companies During Chat". NJ Tech Weekly. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  2. ^ Lewis, Al (8 May 2007). "A dirty business". The Denver Post. Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  3. ^ Stern, Robert (8 August 2010). "It began with worms - Trenton-based TerraCycle has become a high-profile player in a niche corner of the recycling market known as 'upcycling". The Times of Trenton. Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  4. ^ a b c Szaky, Tom (2013). Revolution in a Bottle: How TerraCycle is Eliminating the Idea of Waste. New York, New York, USA: Penguin Group. pp. 12–15. ISBN 978-1-59184-595-9.
  5. ^ a b Chong, Barry (27 June 2013). "ECO-CAPITALIST TOM SZAKY". TORO Magazine. Retrieved 15 May 2014.
  6. ^ a b "Tackling our waste crisis while accepting people are inherently selfish". GREEN DREAMER. Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  7. ^ a b "Executive Profile Tom Szaky". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 15 May 2014.
  8. ^ "I AM AMERICAN BUSINESS: Tom Szaky". CNBC LLC. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  9. ^ Tom Szaky: Chief Executive Officer, TerraCycle. Accessed September 14, 2012 (via Wayback Machine)
  10. ^ Shambora, Jessica; writer. "One man's rubbish is Terracycle's bounty". Fortune. Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  11. ^ a b c d Burlingham, Bo (2006-07-01). "The Coolest Little Start-Up in America". Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  12. ^ Strauss, Robert (2005-04-10). "But the Employees Are Really Spineless". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  13. ^ Strauss, Robert (2005-04-10). "But the Employees Are Really Spineless". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  14. ^ Piazza, Jo (2002-07-28). "UP FRONT: WORTH NOTING; Garbage In, Garbage Out. A Princeton Success Story". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  15. ^ Walker, Rob (2007-05-20). "Architecture - Consumed - Rob Walker - Waste and Waste Materials - Recycling". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  16. ^ "Garbage mogul: TerraCycle's plan to make millions from trash - Mar. 25, 2009". Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  17. ^ "The duke of rubbish - Video". Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  18. ^ By Natalie Allen and Matthew Knight. "Recycling the world's trash into cash". CNN. Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  19. ^ "TerraCycle Turns Waste into Wonder". Path to Purchase IQ. Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  20. ^ Burlingham, Bo. "The Coolest Little Start-Up in America", Inc. (magazine), July 2006. Accessed October 25, 2007.
  21. ^ "Recycling entrepreneur stubs out cigarette garbage". Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  22. ^ "Trenton company trying to recycle diapers". WHYY. Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  23. ^ Shaw, Dougal (2018-03-06). "The chewing gum you don't mind stuck to your shoe". Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  24. ^ Goldsberry, Clare (2019-01-23). "Game-changing waste-free shopping platform introduced by TerraCycle at Davos". PlasticsToday. Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  25. ^ "Pioneering circular shopping system launches in Paris". Business Green. 2019-05-15. Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  26. ^ "Carrefour and TerraCycle launch 'Loop' test in Paris to tackle waste". Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  27. ^ "Carrefour and TerraCycle launch 'Loop' test in Paris to tackle waste". Reuters. 2019-05-14. Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  28. ^ "Circular Shopping Platform Loop Launches in the U.S." Waste360. 2019-05-22. Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  29. ^ "Kroger, Walgreens Join P&G and Unilever in Reusable Container Launch". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  30. ^ "A Shift to Circular: How Loop is Leading Supply Chains to a More Sustainable Future". City National Bank. Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  31. ^ "Tom Szaky, Guest Writer : TreeHugger". Retrieved 2020-01-31.
  32. ^ "Tom Szaky | HuffPost, Entrepreneur Magazine, MindBodyGreen Journalist | Muck Rack". Retrieved 2020-01-31.
  33. ^ Gorce, Tammy La (2015-08-20). "'Human Resources': Reality TV About a Recycling Company". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-01-31.
  34. ^ Human Resources, retrieved 2020-01-31
  35. ^ "Tom Szaky". Retrieved 2020-01-31.
  36. ^ "The Future of Packaging by Tom Szaky: 9781523095506 | Books". Retrieved 2020-01-31.
  37. ^ " Revolution in a Bottle". Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  38. ^ Szaky, Tom (2014). Outsmart Waste. ISBN 978-1626560246.
  39. ^ Szaky, Tom; Zakes, Albe (7 July 2015). Make Garbage Great. ISBN 978-0062348852.
  40. ^ "2019 Outstanding". Retrieved 2020-01-31.
  41. ^ "A Shift to Circular: How Loop is Leading Supply Chains to a More Sustainable Future". City National Bank. Retrieved 2020-01-31.
  42. ^ "Authors". World Economic Forum. Retrieved 2020-01-31.
  43. ^ "Waste360 Announces 2019 40 Under 40 Awards Winners". Waste360. 2019-01-27. Retrieved 2020-01-31.