Ta’Leah VanSistine puts recycling in a metal box for the Ridwell program at the reporter’s home in Bothell, Washington on April 30, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Ta’Leah VanSistine puts recycling in a metal box for the Ridwell program at the reporter’s home in Bothell, Washington on April 30, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

In goal to reduce garbage to ‘nothing,’ Everett recyclers try Ridwell

Residents can recycle chip bags, plastic clamshells and more. For a fee, the Seattle service takes items that “fall through the cracks.”

EVERETT — Since signing up for Ridwell’s recycling services, Everett resident Kelli Bradley barely has a full bag of garbage to put on the curb for waste pickup days.

“Between composting and Ridwell,” she said, “our garbage is nothing.”

She subscribed to the service in 2020 after “wishcycling” for years — hoping that the curbside recycling load “goes off and does what you are wanting it to do.”

Ridwell, starting at $14 a month for a basic plan, gives subscribers a 2-foot tall metal box with reusable bags inside. Each bag is for a different item: batteries, plastic film, multi-layer plastic (think chip bags), threads (clothes and shoes), household light bulbs and a “featured category” for a product the customer gets to choose.

Bags for different categories of the Ridwell recycling program at Ta’Leah Van Sistine’s home in Bothell, Washington on April 30, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Bags for different categories of the Ridwell recycling program at Ta’Leah Van Sistine’s home in Bothell, Washington on April 30, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Subscribers can recycle corks, electronics, bottle caps, bread tags (those small pieces of plastic holding your bagged loaves together), among other rotating items for the featured category.

Every two weeks, a Ridwell driver empties the bin and takes items to the company’s headquarters. In Washington, Ridwell staff at the Seattle headquarters prepare the pre-sorted items for business partners to pick them up.

Customers have to pay for Ridwell’s services in addition to curbside waste collection. But it’s worth it, Bradley said, to have more recycling options.

Workers sort recycling at the Ridwell Seattle headquarters in Seattle, Washington on May 6, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Ridwell staff communicate with waste collection companies to ensure there isn’t any overlap.

“We would do tours of recycling facilities and see what comes in and the things that fall through the cracks,” said Ryan Metzger, the co-founder and CEO of Ridwell, in an interview this month. “And that’s sort of what we tried to pick up.”

For example, Rubatino Refuse Removal doesn’t accept clear plastic clamshells — the subject of my first “Trash Talk” column — so Everett residents can add them to their Ridwell subscription.

Bradley finds herself buying berries more often now.

“Our consumption has gone up because we know we can recycle it,” she said.

Plastic film is recycled at the Ridwell headquarters in Seattle, Washington on May 6, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Plastic film is recycled at the Ridwell headquarters in Seattle, Washington on May 6, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Before launching Ridwell in 2018, Metzger and his son Owen had their own community recycling project in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood. Metzger called local businesses to see if they took batteries and other hard-to-recycle items. He and Owen then organized local pickups to help neighbors divert waste, too.

“It quickly expanded beyond Queen Anne,” Metzger said.

Ridwell staff now offer services to over 44,000 residents throughout Western Washington — as far north as Bellingham and south to Olympia.

The company has also expanded to California, Colorado and Oregon, as well as several other states.

Forty Ridwell drivers based in the Seattle area make about 2,500 daily stops to empty subscribers’ bins.

The company said it plans to convert most of its cargo van fleet to electric by 2028.

Recycled corks at the Ridwell headquarters in Seattle, Washington on May 6, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Recycled corks at the Ridwell headquarters in Seattle, Washington on May 6, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

‘Build trust throughout the whole system’

I tried Ridwell myself — having heard about the service months ago from several Daily Herald readers.

A Ridwell staff member delivered the box to my doorstep almost three weeks before my scheduled pickup.

For my featured category, I chose prescription pill bottles.

I checked the website for guidance on how to prepare everything I planned to put in the bin before my April 30 pickup. I was particularly curious about the labels on pill bottles and plastic mailing envelopes. I quickly found a page that outlined exactly which bottles Ridwell accepts.

Did I have empty pill bottles with a label? Without a label? Different colors? All of them are acceptable, I learned, as long as they are transparent and have the #5 recycling symbol on the container.

The bin quickly filled to the brim with granola bar wrappers, a hefty bundle of plastic bags and sheets of bubble wrap. My roommate also happened to have a stack of clothes she had planned to deliver to a thrift store and some alkaline batteries she had set aside for weeks, in hopes she could recycle them somewhere.

Batteries in a Ridwell bag at Ta’Leah Van Sistine’s home in Bothell, Washington on April 30, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Batteries in a Ridwell bag at Ta’Leah Van Sistine’s home in Bothell, Washington on April 30, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Ridwell staff gave me extra bags for Styrofoam that I could place outside my bin for an extra fee, too.

The Ridwell website has a page dedicated to transparency, so customers can see where their items are sent in the Seattle area:

• Trex turns plastic film into decking materials;

• HydroBlox recycles multi-layer plastic to make drainage materials;

• Goodwill and Rag Mine Clothing take threads;

• Ecolights accepts lightbulbs and batteries; and

• Styro Recycle and DTG recycle Styrofoam.

Ridwell also posts its contamination rates online for each category, showing the percentage of material successfully diverted from landfills. For instance, Ridwell’s Seattle headquarters recycles about 95% of the plastic film it receives, according to the service’s website.

“I would love for other parts of the industry to do that as well,” said Metzger, about recycling transparency. “I think that would build trust throughout the whole system.”

Ridwell offers three different subscription plans:

• Plastic film, threads, batteries and light bulbs for $14 a month;

• Add multi-layer plastic for a total of $18 a month; or

• Add Styrofoam and any bags of items that don’t fit in the bin for $24 a month.

Ta’Leah Van Sistine: 425-339-3460; taleah.vansistine@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @TaLeahRoseV.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A big decision for Boeing’s next CEO: Is it time for a new plane?

As Boeing faces increased competition from Airbus, the company is expected to appoint a new CEO by the end of the year.

A Mukilteo Speedway sign hangs at an intersection along the road in Mukilteo. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Mukilteo Speedway name change is off to a bumpy start

The city’s initial crack at renaming the main drag got over 1,500 responses. Most want to keep the name.

Two workers walk past a train following a press event at the Lynnwood City Center Link Station on Friday, June 7, 2024, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Trains up and running on Lynnwood Link — but no passengers quite yet

Officials held an event at the Lynnwood station announcing the start of “pre-revenue” service. Passengers still have to wait till August.

Nedra Vranish, left, and Karen Thordarson, right browse colorful glass flowers at Fuse4U during Sorticulture on Friday, June 7, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
A promenade through Everett’s popular Sorticulture garden festival

Check out a gallery of the festival’s first day.

Left to right, Everett Pride board members Ashley Turner, Bryce Laake, and Kevin Daniels pose for a photo at South Fork Bakery in Everett, Washington on Sunday, May 26, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Second Everett Pride aims for even bigger rainbow of festivities

Organizers estimated about 3,000 people attended the first block party in Everett. This year, they’re aiming for 10,000.

Everett Herald staff gather and talk in the newsroom after layoff announcements on Wednesday, June 19, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘This breaks my heart’: Over half of Everett Herald news staff laid off

A dozen journalists were handed walking papers Wednesday, in a wave of layoffs mandated by new owners, Carpenter Media Group.

The I-5, Highway 529 and the BNSF railroad bridges cross over Union Slough as the main roadways for north and southbound traffic between Everett and Marysville. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Highway 529 squeeze starts now between Everett, Marysville

Following a full closure for a night, starting late Sunday, Highway 529 will slim down to two lanes for months near the Snohomish River Bridge.

A Mukilteo Speedway sign hangs at an intersection along the road on Sunday, April 21, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Long live the Speedway! Mukilteo’s main drag won’t be renamed

The public shot down the mayor’s idea to change the name: 77% voted ‘No’ in an online survey, with 95% opposed on Facebook.

Everett
Motorcyclist dies in crash on East Marine View Drive in Everett

Around 8 p.m. Tuesday, a motorcycle and a vehicle crashed into each other at the intersection of 11th street and East Marine View Drive.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Darrington in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Motorcyclist dies in crash on Highway 530

Jeremy Doyle, 46, was riding east near Darrington when he crashed into the side of a car that was turning left.

The Marysville School District office on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
‘Financially insolvent’ Marysville schools to get unprecedented oversight

Superintendent Chris Reykdal will convene a first-of-its-kind Financial Oversight Committee, he wrote in a letter Tuesday.

Woodside Elementary Principal Betty Cobbs on Monday, June 17, 2024 in Bothell, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett’s first Black principal retires after 51 years

In her office, Betty Cobbs kept a black-and-white photo of herself at age 5: “I am right there, with dreams of becoming an educator.”

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.