Pittsburgh-Based Start Up Creates A Smart Way To Recycle

Jun 23, 2020

A Pittsburgh-based startup is using technology to revolutionize the recycling industry. RoadRunner Recycling uses software designed to help businesses recycle more and save money.

CEO Graham Rihn said it works by using Machine learning and AI which predicts the volume of materials a customer produces, and then creates smart routes that are posted to a mobile app.

The app is used by a network of third-party haulers.

“So you can think of a mobile app where we post routes and those routes are accepted by fleet-based businesses who have down and idle time who can actually perform the hauling of recyclables from our customers,” Rihn said.

Boosting recycling also keeps trash out of landfills.

“A landfill is expensive, and when you can divert materials out of landfills and toward recycling you can help customers save money,” Rihn noted.

One of RoadRunner Recycling’s customers is Allegheny County. According to County Manager William McKain, the benefit of working with RoadRunner is that rather than single stream, they source separate materials.

“Flattened cardboard is collected separately from mixed paper and the same applies to bottles and cans,” McKain said. “That reduces contamination because it doesn’t have to be sorted and so the county has a higher percentage of waste being recycled,” McKain added.

Allegheny County is entering the second year of a two-year, $150,000 contract with RoadRunner Recyling.

While the company has seen success so far, it hasn't been spared by the pandemic. Rihn said the generation of recycling at businesses such as hotels, restaurants and event facilities stopped abruptly when the pandemic hit. But, he said business quickly shifted to new areas.

“We’ve seen generation drop in those hard hit industries, but we’ve also seen it flow to other industries we service like multi-family apartments and condos because everybody is working from home,” Rihn said.

Although many businesses are implementing cutbacks due to the pandemic, Rihn said RoadRunner Recycling is expanding. He said the company will launch service in Austin in July and will add a new city every month for the next 14 months. The 200 person workforce in Pittsburgh will expand to 300 by year's end.