The city of Atlanta will soon deploy Rubicon Global’s technology to improve its waste management services — a first for the smart waste and recycling startup whose customers until now have been public corporations.
Rubicon’s Michael Allegretti, director of public policy, told Environmental Leader the company’s mission is to create “a future without landfills.”
“It’s the ability for our customers to divert more materials from the waste stream, to reuse more materials,” Allegretti said in an email. “To reach the scale we need to address those environmental challenges we need to be working with cities and in partnership with cities. We’re an Atlanta-based company; the city of Atlanta was the first city we approached.”
The city council approved a resolution for the six-month pilot program in October. It will launch in early January 2017. At that point, smartphones loaded with the Rubicon hauler mobile app will be placed into the Atlanta Department of Public Works’ entire fleet of residential solid waste, recycling and yard waste trucks.
The cloud-based technology will collect real-time data on the fleet’s operations as well as landfill diversion and recycling rates. In addition to helping the city better target it’s recycling efforts, this data will also improve the fleet’s efficiency and optimize routing and truck maintenance.
“Our goal is to be at 90 percent waste diversion by 2020 and we’re not where we need to be to be on track to make that goal,” said Stephanie Benfield, Atlanta’s chief resilience officer. “We’ve got to do something different to reach that goal — that’s why I was particularly enthused about this pilot.”
Rubicon says its app also leads to customer savings, through improved fleet routing and maintenance, and higher recycling rates mean more potential profit for the city.
“The city makes a profit off our recycling program so there’s definitely an economic benefit for us to be recycling at higher volumes,” Benfield said, adding that the data collected will also help the city target higher value commodity items for recovery. “Aluminum is more valuable than plastic, high-quality paper is going to get a higher price than bulk newspaper, for example. With more data on what is being recycled and on contamination, we can target the homes that are contaminating at a high level and target their recycling streams, increasing our profits exponentially.”
The city of Atlanta partnership is significant for Rubicon because it marks the company’s first public-entity customer. Rubicon’s commercial customers include 7-Eleven, Carmike, David’s Bridal, Lumber Liquidators and Fabric.
Rubicon, which has been called the “Uber of trash,” connects these and other companies with independent commercial waste haulers that bid for their business. Once its haulers get the trash, Rubicon then works with its vendor network to recycle, repurpose or convert to energy the materials it has collected. It also shares the revenue from recyclables with the companies generating the waste.
Rubicon says this cloud-based business model drives down waste management costs and creates potential new revenue streams for its customers.
Earlier this year Rubicon partnered with data company Trucost to help its customers also measure their monthly greenhouse gas emissions — and GHG savings — from recycling, composting or anaerobic digestion.
“Organizations can use that data for internal and external sustainability reporting, including corporate sustainability reports and to pursue zero-waste or other environmental certifications,” David Rachelson, Rubicon Global’s director of sustainability told Environmental Leader in an earlier interview.
Reducing waste and measuring related emissions can help move cities and companies closer to attaining their sustainability goals. As both types of organizations look for smarter ways to manage their waste and increase recycling rates, Rubicon’s business model and services looks like a win-win.