What are Subscription-based Recycling Services and Can I Join One in My City?

Updated: Apr. 18, 2024

Find out what subscription-based recycling is and if it’s available in your town.

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Most cities offer curbside pickup for recycling but finding a place to bring recyclable material in rural areas prove tougher. To fill the gap, subscription-based recycling companies have started to pop up.

What is Subscription-based Recycling?

Subscription-based recycling is a business model where customers pay a monthly fee to have someone come pick up their recycling. It’s gaining traction in rural locales where recycling centers have started to turn away certain plastics because it’s no longer cost effective for them to accept them. Or recycling centers have increased fees to recycle, which has turned people away from recycling. Here are 30 tips to recycle just about anything.

Last year, China announced it was reducing the amount of solid waste it would accept from other countries. China also lowered the acceptable contamination percentage to .5 percent. It has meant, in part, that it’s just too expensive for smaller communities to continue to try to recycle. Here’s how you can decipher those plastic recycling numbers.

Smaller communities don’t generate enough volume to offset the costs of long travel for collection and the return on what they collect doesn’t cover costs. It has meant more recyclable materials winding up in landfills. Recyclops, a subscription-based recycling company, found in 2018 that in an analysis of 1,000 towns in the U.S., 34 million rural and peri-urban homes lack access to convenient, affordable recycling. These are 18 strange things you never knew you could recycle.

According to a Pew Research Center survey, found that just four in 10 rural residents have access to curbside recycling.

How Subscription-based Recycling Emerged

One of the biggest subscription-based recycling companies is Recyclops, which is based in Utah but serves more than 3,500 homes across Utah, Idaho, Colorado and Arizona. It has plans to double the number of homes it serves and expand into Texas, according to a Forbes article.

Recyclops hires independent contractors to pickup recycling in pickup trucks, using a smart routing app. Recyclops charges $10 a month for twice-monthly pickups and since 2014 the company has diverted 4 million pounds of waste away from landfills, according to Forbes.

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Where is Subscription-based Recycling Available?

In addition to Recyclops, there are a number of grassroot startup subscription-based recycling companies. Clean Valley Recycling in La Junta, Colorado has become a success story. It collects recycling from three towns, 65 businesses and has a handful of drop-off sites in the area. In 2017, Clean Valley Recycling collected 522 tons of recycling, according to the Colorado Sun.

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Ridwell is a Seattle area start up that offers subscription-based recycling for $10-14 a month that will pick up recycling every two weeks. Ridwell has about 350 customers and collects batteries, light bulbs, plastic film and threads.

Companies like Coyuchi, will take old bedsheets purchased from them and replace them with new ones under a monthly subscription program that costs $5 a month.

SCRaP is a Billings, Montana based glass recycling company that operates on a subscription model.

Can You Join a Subscription-based Recycling Program in Your Town?

You can if your town doesn’t offer curbside recycling and there is a company in the area that will pick up recycling. But for now, it’s still an emerging business model. A quick internet search can help you find a subscription-based recycling program.