U.N. salutes Trenton firm for repurposing plastic waste collected from ocean

A quarter of the world’s plastic ends up in waterways, so TerraCycle has plenty of raw material for the shampoo bottles it's making with the recycled waste.

TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky shows a shampoo bottle made with recycled plastic collected from beaches and oceans. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky shows a shampoo bottle made with recycled plastic collected from beaches and oceans. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

The United Nations has recognized a Trenton-based recycling company for creating a shampoo bottle that’s made with plastic waste collected from beaches and waterways.

TerraCycle chief executive officer Tom Szaky said 25 percent of the world’s plastic ends up in oceans, rivers, and lakes.

“We, today, in every continent around the world, are running cleanups, collecting the material from those sources,” he said. “And then we refine it, do some pretty high-end recycling science to it, and turn it into the Head & Shoulders bottle that is now 25 percent made from ocean plastic.”

Those shampoo bottles are being sold in France and soon will be available in other countries.

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The company is also getting ready to launch another product — dish soap bottles made with recycled ocean plastic.

The U.N. Momentum for Change Lighthouse Activity award shows that meaningful solutions can be found for daunting problems, Szaky said.

“Ocean plastic is a massive issue. Now this platform with Head & Shoulders and TerraCycle isn’t the solution, but it’s a step in the right direction,” he said. “And, hopefully, what it does is create big awareness so that other companies, entrepreneurs, concerned citizens, all feel that they can do something about these environmental challenges.”

TerraCycle has relied on millionaire investors to help fund its expansion. Szaky said it’s awaiting approval from regulators to sell shares to people who don’t have a lot of cash to invest.

“We’re going to be selling a third of TerraCycle US for $25 million. And anyone can invest with a minimum investment of $700,” he said. “We just love than anyone out there can be a part of TerraCycle. It’s not just rich people who can be a part of it.”

TerraCycle will use the money to acquire other waste-management companies and develop new products, he said.

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