Rubicon Global Disrupts the Waste Stream through Entrepreneurism

By Elizabeth Hill, Director of Corporate and Social Responsibility, Rubicon Global

Why do we throw trash away? Because we have already extracted the value out of a product and we do not need what is left over. What remains is usually seen as dirty or useless. It goes into the can and out of our minds.

American households throw away an average of 4.43 pounds per person, per day. That is over three-quarters of a ton of resources being buried into our soil and dumped into our oceans annually per person. Now imagine how much your restaurant chain, or your retail store–which serves thousands of customers a day–sends to the landfill each year.

The current logic of how to manage waste is backward. The system relies on hauling and storing waste in landfills. That leaves us in the position we are today: very costly waste disposal and numerous environmental impacts.

Environmental impacts of waste:

  • Pollution from methane gas at landfills
  • Contaminated land and water
  • Emissions from trucks which haul waste
  • Loss of raw materials and energy

Financial impacts of waste:

  • Cost of disposing waste, including taxes paid on landfill disposal fees
  • Loss of potential revenue from reusing and reducing waste
  • Industry norms: over-billing, fuel surcharges and price creep
  • Investment in back office administration to manage a service that is non-core to the business

The founders of Rubicon Global thought there had to be a better way to view and manage waste. They knew a huge amount of value was being neglected if not outright destroyed.

Rubicon Global turned this logic on its head by:

A) Viewing waste as a resource

B) Not owning assets (landfills, trucks, recycling operations) and instead depending on a network of thousands of strategically positioned vendors

C) Employing technology for sourcing, managing locations and collecting data

D) Reducing waste sent to the landfill and reducing the number of hauling trips made

E) Building in monetary incentives for our customers to prevent, reduce, reuse and recycle waste

Rubicon Global’s business model is based on the idea that reducing waste is not only good for the planet, but also good for business. Its market-driven approach incentivizes customers to take a closer look at their waste streams and let its experts implement innovative waste prevention and recycling solutions.  Simply put, business is the most powerful way to solve environmental and social issues.

Benefits of disrupting the waste stream:

  • Reduced environmental impact through waste prevention and increased recycling
  • Lowered costs and potential revenue from recyclables
  • Improved logistics through identification of inefficiencies in the system
  • Optimization of equipment and service frequency
  • Prevention of lost resources
  • Engagement of supply chain stakeholders and employees
  • Collection of sustainability metrics
  • Increased preparedness for coming waste and recycling legislation
  • Improved Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Additional points on the U.S. Green Building Council LEED rating system

Americans create more waste per capita than any other country in the world (after Canada)** and a great deal of that waste is a byproduct of our ingenuity and spirit of entrepreneurism. Perhaps the next frontier for entrepreneurs is answering the problems that come along with this consumption and turning these challenges into business opportunities that measure success by looking at the triple bottom line: people, planet and profit.

Let us know how your company manages waste by emailing us at business@edf.org.