Ever stood in front of your trash bins and pondered the proper way to dispose of a piece of plastic wrap? You want to do the environmentally responsible thing and keep things out of the landfill, but it should not take a PhD in Trash Disposal to figure out how to do it.
Help is now available for those struggling to figure out the trash-vs.-recycling options. Starting last week, Seattle-based Ridwell began serving Edmonds, and is hoping to expand to Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace, as well as other areas.
The company collects items not covered by city garbage service – think batteries, Styrofoam or plastic wrap – for reuse or recycling. Every two weeks they come to your house and pick up trash from four core categories: batteries, light bulbs, plastic film, and threads – for example, clothes, shoes, sheets and towels. A printable document on their website clearly shows what is included in each category. But that’s not the end of it. There is a rotating fifth category that changes with every pickup. And if you’re not sure about what can be recycled or reused, send them a picture by email and they will let you know.
Ridwell began with the adventuresome, entrepreneurial spirit of Seattle resident Ryan Metzger and his 6-year-old son Owen. Ryan said that Owen wanted to know what happens to things when you throw them away, and this led to discussions about keeping discarded items out of landfills. After Ryan finally discovered the best way to recycle used batteries, he thought neighbors might be struggling with the same problem. When he offered to take their dead batteries to be recycled, Owen jumped on board to help.
The pair then found other things to reuse or recycle such as light bulbs, electronics, clothes hangers, Styrofoam, plastic bags, clothing, and even Halloween candy. Each time Ryan and Owen found a way to recycle discarded items and keep them from the landfill, they checked with neighbors to see if they had anything to add to their trip. Their pickups got bigger and bigger, quickly spreading beyond the neighborhood.
After over 1,200 pickups across more than 20 categories, the Metzgers were assisted by Aliya Marder, Justin Gough and David Dawson, who jumped in to help Ryan with pickups, donations, and spreading the word. As the work continued to expand, the four co-founders decided that enough people shared their vision that they could become a company — and Ridwell was born.
Customers who sign up with Ridwell receive cotton bags into which you put items from each category on the list. Then you put the bags into a Ridwell-provided white metal box that sits on your doorstep. A Ridwell representative comes by, picks up the bags, and carries them away. That’s it for you.
Ridwell employees then sort all the materials that they collect and send them to be recycled — or arrange to have them reused — all in environmentally responsible ways. To do this, the company develops partnerships with local organizations committed to reducing landfill wastes.
For example, Ridwell partners with Free the Girls to recycle used, no-longer-wanted-by-you bras. They give take-out extras such as plastic utensils and packets of mustard, ketchup, salt and pepper to the Pike Market Food Bank, which places them in food bags for hungry folks. They work with Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA) so that used kitchenware gets a second life with immigrant families. And if you suggest a group that recycles, Ridwell vets them and then – if appropriate — adds them to the company’s growing list of partners.
Ridwell now has 12 employees and services Seattle, Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Mercer Island, Kirkland and Edmonds.
“The more people we serve, the greater impact we can all have on helping things you’re not using reach those in need and in creating new forms of domestic recycling,” he said. “Our vision is to make it easy to waste less, so people of all ages can send fewer things to landfills and instead support the community and make the planet a better place for future generations.”
— By Rosemary Wander