Green Business ideas

Another great and inventive business idea that could very easily be implemented in South Africa. As young South Africans who see a future in this country we need to create businesses in order to create employment, why not do it in the new and growing sector of Green.

You can learn a lot from worm poop. Just ask Tom Szaky, founder and CEO of Terracycle, who once manufactured fertilizer made from the stuff. "It got me thinking about waste streams, because we had to collect uncrushed soda bottles from thousands of schools to hold the worm poop."

When major consumer packaging companies began asking Szaky to pick up their trash, too, he realized that he had a different opportunity on his hands.

The result is Terracycle, which collects all sorts of unrecyclables--Lunchables packaging, old pens, dead cell phones, potato chip bags--and turns them into items such as school supplies and gardening tools, which are then sold at retailers including Target and The Home Depot.

Really, Terracycle is proof that there's never been a better time to be a green business, with customers becoming increasingly eco-conscious and venture capitalists pinning their hopes--and a lot of money, $5.6 billion in 2009--on the cleantech industry.

Terracycle is expected to pull $20 million in retail sales in 2010, and it has doubled the number of employees (currently around 100) every year since its inception in 2001. Better still, these efforts will divert 3 billion pieces of garbage from landfills.

"We're relevant because we create a tangible solution," Szaky says. Although most of the "upcycling" happens in the lab, where engineers and scientists manipulate the trash into textiles and plastics, he wants to involve as many people as possible.

"Sign up on the website to be a collector," he says. "You don't have to pay or buy anything. Just collect."

Terracycle has more than 9 million citizen collectors, who've sent in more than 1 billion pieces of trash. And, yes, they were paid: 2 cents for each chip bag or drink pouch, plus shipping.

Who says you can't turn garbage into gold?

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