Garbage Moguls (pilot 2009)
The pilot show of Garbage Moguls premiered Earth Day 2009 on the National Geographic Channel. Using only materials found in the trash, Tom Szaky ’05 and his TerraCycle team transform cereal boxes into notebooks, newspaper into pencils, and cookie wrappers into kites. Szaky and Tom Beyer ’05 founded TerraCycle in 2001, and the company got its start selling natural plant food made out of worm waste products. Today, TerraCycle has expanded to make affordable, eco-friendly products from a wide range of different non-recyclable waste materials.
Three new episodes of Garbage Moguls will air this summer on the National Geographic Channel, with the possibility of more episodes by the end of this year.
When we were shooting the pilot, we took our prototype kite made from cookie wrappers to the Burlington County Resource Recovery Complex to see if it could fly. After several failed attempts, we got one of the prototypes to fly. It was a great moment, watching the world’s first kite made from cookie wrappers fly, and to do it on a landfill.
For the new season, we found a way to make a trash can out of used chip bags, and though I had seen samples and understood the science, to get to see one being made was a very exciting experience. And to have it filmed completed the moment for me.
On being called a mogul:
Actually, it is a little weird. TerraCycle has been an underdog. I am more used to people calling me crazy than calling me a mogul. Since I am being called a Garbage Mogul, I am more comfortable with the idea. Probably everyone aspires to being called a mogul, but I doubt many aspire to be called a Garbage Mogul, so I am very proud of the title in that sense.
On being on TV:
It’s funny, I envisioned TerraCycle having a reality show from day one. As I shoveled rotting food from the back of Princeton U. cafeterias, I would wonder aloud, “Where are the TV cameras?” So when the company started to grow, I had interns film everything we did. Because of that, I have seen a lot of myself on camera!
Be careful what you say! They filmed two weeks for each episode of the show. When I saw the shows later, I only remembered saying half of what was used. Especially for the CEO of a company, that can be dangerous or fun, depending on how you look at it!