Preserving the Environment

Finding Opportunity at the Bottoms of Dumpsters

November 17, 2014
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Finding Opportunity at the Bottoms of Dumpsters
Nate Morris's business model turns trash into cash through creative recycling. Mario Tama/Getty Images
The contents of a trash can are quite valuable.

This is how to capitalize on the niche of dumpster diving.

Nate Morris has found both economic and environmental opportunity in the trash bins of companies that usually give just a cursory glance to what they throw away. Morris is a guy who greets the stench of trash with a gleam of opportunity and who wants to strip the word waste of its meaning. As a result, he’s found a way to not only move the waste industry a step closer towards environmental harmony (and a reciprocal step away from landfills), but has also managed to save his client’s money by doing so.

His company, Rubicon Global acquires the waste contracts of companies such as Under Armour and 7-Eleven, and then elevates recycling to a stunning level, such as converting pizza dough to ethanol and 400,000 pounds of a regional supermarket’s old company uniforms into the stuffing of pet beds.

Rubicon Global teams up with businesses as a waste consultant, offering specific, personalized plans that revolve around the particular company’s waste management needs. The company then uses their own software platform, Caesar, to open a bid to waste management companies. Lowest bid gets the deal. GreenBiz aptly dubbed Rubicon, “the eBay of the trash industry.”

And it doesn’t exactly hurt that staggering profits run hand-in-hand with these environmentalist deeds. As You Sow estimated $11.4 billion in valuable commodities was lost to landfills in just 2010, and with the waste management industry worth $55 billion (according to a report published by Waste Business Journal in 2012), it’s no surprise that Morris, Rubicon’s founder, was named one of Fortune Magazine’s 2014 “40 Under 40.

Morris (according to The New York Times) would shock business execs by asking about their garbage contracts, to which the execs (of a national pizza company, quoted here, specifically) would reply, “No one’s ever asked me that before.”

Rubicon’s own mission statement says it all: “to create a new industry model that nourishes life.”

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