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A GreenTech Entrepreneur Reinvents the Recycling Model

Written by Vince Thompson, SmartPlanet
Published: September 30, 2009

Ron Gonen sees opportunities in a spot most of us don’t even take notice – the trash. The environmental entrepreneur’s brainchild, Recyclebank, is a rewards and loyalty program that motivates households to recycle and adapt other positive green behaviors. As CEO and co-founder, Gonen is revolutionizing the way people view recycling.

From its launch in 2004, Recyclebank is acknowledged as an unqualified success and has now grown to servicing over one million people across 20 states and in the United Kingdom. Recyclebank is increasing participation in recycling from single digits to over 90% in communities along the way.

In an earlier post we showcased a CBS TV profile of Recyclebank. In this post we visit with Ron Gonen and get more of his perspective on the business and creating wins for so many stakeholders.

Recyclebank success has been based on many parties cooperating and winning. Can you remind us who plays each part and how they win?
The city wins because Recyclebank helps them divert waste from the landfill, which saves them a significant amount of money. The citizen wins because we reward them with Recyclebank Points, which they can use to shop, and we also lower their tax base by reducing the amount their city has to spend on landfill fees. The businesses that participate in our program win because they get great branding and advertising via our website and relationship with the households we service. The recycling industry wins, because it gets a dramatic increase in materials. Manufacturers win because they have access to a large supply of recycled materials, so they don’t have to spend money on virgin materials to manufacture their products. Ultimately the environment wins because less of our natural resources are tapped to manufacture products.

What has surprised you about this business?
I’m always surprised by the amount of obstacles that you are presented when you are trying to build a business and change behavior. But, we’ve been successful in overcoming those obstacles, and the reward is great because it’s both a financial reward for the company, and an emotional reward for the people in the company, because we feel like we’ve made a difference.

What’s been your best move?
Hiring the best people I could find.

What’s been your worst?
Relaxing my standards on character and values in the hiring process. Every time I’ve done that it’s been a mistake.

What’s your biggest challenge going forward?
Hiring the best people.

How can other entrepreneurs or stakeholders benefit from your companies success?

With entrepreneurs, it’s example of people working really hard to make an idea a reality. For stakeholders who care about the environment, it’s demonstrating that smart environmental actions are also smart economic decisions.

What are some of the other green companies you find exciting?
I’ve always admired Patagonia – they make a product that is of the highest quality, they are always trying to innovate, and people love working at the company.

What tips would you give to a private firm who wants to build a successful partnership with a government agency?
Patience, and respect for people at all levels.

Thanks Ron!

Read the story here.

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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

Reward Partners

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