No More Landfills? How One New Company Is Banking On Garbage
Acton Institute Powerblog

No More Landfills? How One New Company Is Banking On Garbage

At Wired, Issie Lapowsky says most of us are paying rent on our garbage. Not that we think of it that way.

Millions of businesses are paying billions of dollars in rent on their garbage. They don’t think of it that way, of course, just as the fees they pay trash haulers to pick up their junk. But a significant portion of that money covers the cost of the landfill space itself. And what is a landfill if not a stinky, seething plot of real estate with garbage as the primary tenant?

What choice do we have? We fill our trash bags, put the bags in the cart and haul it to the curb once a week. Then a garbage truck takes the garbage away and we don’t think about it anymore. But Nate Morris has been thinking about it. A lot.

Morris thinks the whole system needs to be changed. First, landfills are growing, unsightly and wasteful (pardon the pun.) Second, Morris thinks there is a way to not only do away with landfills (or at least drastically reduce them) and create competition that will benefit consumers. Morris is co-founder and CEO of Rubicon Global. Let’s just say he has a  whole different take on garbage.

Rubicon has created a virtual marketplace where thousands of small, local haulers can bid on portions of huge national contracts. This fosters competition between haulers, driving down the price of service. Rubicon also monitors the ebb and flow of their waste stream to cut down on unnecessary pickups. When Rubicon saves customers money, it takes a cut of those savings. Then, it catalogs the waste and scours its extensive database of recycling opportunities to find ways to resell the often valuable materials that get locked up in that waste. Again, the more Rubicon can sell off, the more it gets paid.

“The disruption of our model really exists around our revenue structure,” Morris says. “We’re making sure all the incentives align for the first time in the waste industry.” In other words, unlike traditional haulers, Rubicon is most successful when it keeps trash out of landfills, not in it.

Eric Orts, a professor at the Wharton School of Business and faculty director of the Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership, says this is a “no-brainer:” less cost for consumers, less garbage sitting in landfills. Rubicon turns the industry upside-down: they are most successful when there is less stuff in landfills, not more.

Marketplace competition, lower consumer costs and less waste – certainly not a wast of anyone’s energy.

Read “A Startup Just Got $30 Million to Shake Up the Garbage Industry” at Wired.

Elise Hilton

Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.