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50 Most Beautiful People

Written by 50 Most Beautiful People
Published: May 6, 2009

23. Ron Gonen -- Champion of the Earth

You want a prize for recycling? Well you're in luck, because Ron Gonen thinks you deserve one. In 2004, the CEO co-founded Recyclebank, a rewards program that incentivizes recycling by measuring the amount of material each home recycles, then converting that to "Recyclebank points." The points can then be redeemed at hundreds of local and national partners such as Kraft, Target and Bed Bath and Beyond.

Like most common sense ideas, this one has profound implications. So profound, the United Nations recently named Gonen 2009 Champion of the Earth for the progressively practical program.

"To be able to take an idea and develop it into something that is recognized on a global scale for having a positive impact on the world is a special feeling," says Gonen. That feeling will likely keep growing, as RB shows no signs of slowing with sights set oversees.

Since launching its pilot program in Pennsylvania, RB has expanded its presence to over 100 U.S. cities and projects to be in over 100 million homes over the course of the next five years. RB is currently implementing its U.K. launch and will be in the Royal borough of Windsor and Maidenhead in partnership with Veolia Waste Services. The first British pick-up date is scheduled for June 1, 2009.

But RB has bigger dreams than just picking up trash. Gonen hopes to transform the way societies view the lifecycle of a product. "Since the discarding of product in a linear lifecycle destroys value, then the reuse and recycling of that product should create value. I believe that in order for a cyclical product lifecycle to be created and remain sustainable, value must be passed back to the entity, households, who are responsible for providing each product a cyclical lifecycle."

So while some consider recycling a function of an appreciation and respect for the planet, others require proof of a greater return. "The most important impact is that people would recognize that smart environmental decisions are smart economic decisions." Now that's money in the bank.

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Recyclebank At A Glance

New York

New York, Philadelphia and Houston

Javier Flaim


The Coca-Cola Company, Craton Equity Partners, Generation Investment Management, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Paul Capital Investments, Physic Ventures, RRE Ventures LLC, Sigma Partners, Waste Management Inc., and Westly Group

4 Million+

300+ in all 50 states

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