The latest issue of Inc. Magazine has a great article titled The Coolest Little Start-up in America. It is the story of TerraCycle, a company that "manufactures" plant food from worm poop. I found it a fascinating story, but what intrigued me most was the packaging that TerraCycle uses for its products. All of the bottles they use to sell their plant food began their life storing soda. You see, TerraCycle is the first company in the world to sell a mass produced consumer product in used soda plastic bottles.
It all started out of necessity. Back in 2003, when the company was just getting going, they had no money to buy bottles for their plant food. So Tom Szaky, the young founder, recruited some Princeton students to go around during the night taking plastic bottles out of recycling bins. Today, they buy the bottles from recycling companies, and in 2006 they expect to use between 1.5 million and 2 million used bottles.
Most of the space in the factory is taken up by bottles. They receive these plastic bottles from huge trailers. After they arrive in the factory they are cleaned, delabeled, filled and then labeled again with a TerraCycle label. The used bottles are an integral part of the marketing message for TerraCycle. On their web site, the bottles are front and center, and they show you before and after pictures with Pepsi logos.
This is such a great packaging idea, it is surprising that no one has thought of it before. It is a less expensive option that is also better for the environment. And with all the billions of plastic bottles that are thrown away every year either in recycling bins or landfills there should be a plentiful supply.