Aug 30, 2021 - News
How startups are filling the gaps in Denver recycling
The white pickup box of Ridwell, a recycling company.
Photo courtesy of Ridwell

A startup that is helping address the state's trash problem is expanding its Denver service area after seeing huge interest in the first two months since its local launch.

Ridwell collects hard-to-recycle items and reusable products to keep them from the landfill.

  • The Seattle-based company reached 1,000 members in Denver last week and is working to extend its pickups to the suburbs, says Rebecca Hayes, the local general manager.

Why it matters: The company sees itself as part of the solution to waste diversion and climate change, suggesting that individual efforts can go a long way to addressing big problems.

What they're saying: "We definitely cater to a household that is aware of the issues that the world is facing," Hayes told Axios Denver. "And I think people are looking to do the right thing and waste less.”

Zoom in: Ridwell follows in the footsteps of Happy Beetle, a Denver-owned company that launched in April to help people waste less.

How it works: The companies will come to your home to pick up plastic film, batteries, light bulbs, clothing and other items that are excluded from curbside recycling programs.

  • On each pickup Ridwell will take a featured category outside of its regularly collected items. These are typically materials that can be reused or donated. Happy Beetle offers a similar service.

The subscriptions starts at $12 a month for Ridwell and $11 for Happy Beetle, depending on pick up frequency.

Ridwell currently serves neighborhoods like Washington Park, Park Hill, Central Park and Capitol Hill. Happy Beetle coves the entire C-470 loop and extends to Boulder.

The big picture: The low-waste startups are part of a broader trend that is getting increased interest from consumers and investors amid a pandemic that simultaneously led to more household trash and a greater awareness of the problem, Axios' Hope King writes.

Yes, but: Plastics and waste solutions need scale to attract investors and achieve real environmental impact, said Chuck Templeton, managing director at S2G Ventures.

  • "You look at packaging companies — they’ve been successful over time because they’ve been able to get to scale with [plastics]," he said.
  • The other "part of it is going to be legislation," like cities banning plastic bags, and "pure economic pressure from consumers," said Ramy Adeeb, founder and general partner at 1984 Ventures, a venture capital firm.
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