Recycling Startup Ridwell Expands to Minneapolis
Ridwell founder/CEO Ryan Metzger

Recycling Startup Ridwell Expands to Minneapolis

The Seattle-based company collects hard-to-dispose-of items for recycling or reuse.

Minneapolis residents will soon have a new way to get rid of unwanted stuff that keeps it out of landfills. Ridwell, a Seattle-based startup intent on reinventing recycling, will launch local service in January, making the Twin Cities its fourth market as part of an ambitious national expansion plan.

Ridwell specializes in hard-to-dispose of items: foam packing material, light bulbs, batteries, and the like as well as larger household goods that tend to pile up. For a monthly fee of $12 to $16, the company provides a bin and reusable bags. Contents get picked up by Ridwell every two weeks and distributed to partners who “ethically recycle or reuse them.”

“We provide a recycling alternative that makes people happy,” said Ridwell co-founder and CEO Ryan Metzger. The idea for Ridwell grew out of a home project: Metzger and his son Owen, now 10, wanted to “do the right thing” and find the best way to dispose of dead batteries. From there, the father and son started researching the most eco-friendly ways to dispose of electronics and other household goods. As their list of recycling partners grew, they volunteered to pick up their neighbors’ stuff. It started four years ago with five households in their Seattle neighborhood and multiplied. Before long, 4,000 people had signed up for their service and a company was born.

Today Ridwell serves more than 50,000 members in Seattle, Portland, and Denver. Backed by “mission driven private investors,” Metzger said the company has recycled 3 million pounds of materials to date.

“It was eye-opening to see there were so many people like us who really had a desire to keep things from landfills and create recycling opportunities in a way that helped the community,” Metzger said.

Plastic film, for example, makes up between 10-20 percent of people’s garbage, he said. Instead of burying that in the trash, Ridwell works with a partner who creates decking material out of that type of plastic. The same process exists for other categories including clothing, shoes, batteries, light bulbs and more.

Along with its upcoming Minneapolis launch in January, Ridwell plans to expand to Austin, Texas in early 2022. Metzger said he chose Minneapolis as the fourth market because of a community focus on the environment.

“Minneapolis has fantastic lakes and bike trails,” Metzger said. “Plus, the recycling rate in Minnesota is pretty high, which means that it’s something people care about.”

His goal was to launch in Minneapolis with 2,000 customers, but Ridwell has already signed 2,200, Metzger said, largely through word of mouth and grassroots networking. It helps that prior to starting Ridwell, Metzger worked at a venture capital firm where he focused on growth marketing for other startups. Bread & Butter Ventures hosted a dinner in early December to introduce Ridwell to the Twin Cities startup community.

“We’ll see over time what the market size is, but with 50,000 people signed up already in only a couple of markets, we think there is an opportunity to reach millions of people,” Metzger said. “The combination of cutting waste, convenience and the outlet to do good is what Minnesotans can expect from Ridwell in the near future.”