Meet the Philly Start-Up That Will Recycle (Almost) All of Your Junk
From cutting boards to curtains to K-cups, Rabbit Recycling is here to make you feel a little bit better about all the stuff you need to throw out.
Spring cleaning just got a lot greener thanks to a Philly-based company that promises to recycle almost anything in your home — from scrub brushes to half-used candles to Christmas lights. Rabbit Recycling, a start-up run by brothers Bryan and Matt Siegfried, currently serves more than 250 customers in the region by picking up their household junk and making sure it gets reused and recycled.
Here’s how it works: Customers request five- or 18-gallon containers in which to stash all the items they want to recycle. Rabbit’s extensive list of acceptable items includes stuff like batteries, kitchen utensils, light bulbs, bedding and appliances. Customers fill the containers and leave them outside, then schedule a pickup time. The company charges per container — $7 for the small, $16 for the large — with added fees by volume for any additional junk that doesn’t fit.
Bryan, a native of Montgomery County who’s lived in Philadelphia since 2012, says he saw a need for a business to help consumers be better environmental stewards, especially compared to municipal recycling services.
At various points over the past year, the city’s Streets Department resorted to mixing recyclables with regular trash as understaffed sanitation crews were overwhelmed with the rising volume of residential trash. Plus, if recycling bins contained material the city didn’t recycle, the entire bin could be contaminated.
“You put your trash bin out, you put your recycling out, you do an excellent job, but your neighbor may not do as well, and it all gets thrown into one big pile in the back of a truck,” Bryan says.
Unlike the city, which collects and stores trash and recyclable items in bulk, Rabbit Recycling inspects and sorts through each container, separating items that need to be recycled from those that can be reused or donated. The much smaller scale at which the company operates also allows it to accept items the city won’t take, like plastic bags, which can get stuck in and damage equipment used in recycling processing plants.
Sorting through the materials in any given container can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on how well customers have pre-sorted their items and grouped them together. (The company requires customers to thoroughly clean and dry materials before sending them to be recycled.)
Customers usually stick to the items on the company’s list, Matt says, but they’ve received their fair share of oddities, including twist ties, silica gel packets, X-ray film (which contains silver that can be extracted), an assortment of marathon medals, and even old VHS tapes of 1980s workout videos. The brothers try to donate or reuse as many of these items as they can, then invite local artists and craftspeople into the shop to sift through the rest.
Once items have been inspected and sorted, recyclable materials are shipped directly to processing plants or to third-party firms that further break down the materials. Since those shipments can incur steep freight costs and Rabbit Recycling’s partners usually require materials to be sent in bulk, the company will at times store materials in its Spring Garden facility for months until it has accumulated enough for a shipment.
“When I look at the shop, I think, ‘Hey, everything in here probably would have gone to a landfill, and if not, 75 to 80 percent of it would have,’ so we get a really good feeling out of that,” Matt says.