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Pasadenas go ‘green’ Earth Day with subscription service for hard-to-recycle household waste – San Gabriel Valley Tribune

(Left) An employee sorts bags of recyclables at the Ridwell warehouse in Van Nuys.  (Center) Jo Ollila, of La Canada Flintridge, is a fan of Ridwell, a subscription service that collects hard-to-recycle waste and reuses or disposes of it sustainably.  Ollila, seen here with her daughter Sofia, first encountered the service while living in Seattle.  (Right) An employee sorts bags of recyclables at the Ridwell warehouse in Van Nuys.  (Photos courtesy of Ridwell)
(Left) An employee sorts bags of recyclables at the Ridwell warehouse in Van Nuys. (Center) Jo Ollila, of La Canada Flintridge, is a fan of Ridwell, a subscription service that collects hard-to-recycle waste and reuses or disposes of it sustainably. Ollila, seen here with her daughter Sofia, first encountered the service while living in Seattle. (Right) An employee sorts bags of recyclables at the Ridwell warehouse in Van Nuys. (Photos courtesy of Ridwell)

This is what Jo Ollila wants to tell you about being green: It’s easy.

La Cañada resident Flintridge and her family could complain about having used batteries or old clothes piled up in their garage, or finding time to take them to a collection center. But they can’t.

What they can do is recommend Ridwell, a subscription service that collects waste and throws it away for reuse or recycling – stuff that would otherwise end up in landfills. The company launched this week in Pasadena.

Starting at $14 a month, Ridwell gives environmentally conscious consumers a metal bin and cloth bags to collect batteries, light bulbs, plastic wrap from bread loaves and old clothing.

Yes, you still have to pay for your usual waste collection. But Ollila said it’s worth it to help the environment.

“Ridwell makes it easy to do good,” she said. “They do everything for you and (the system) is flexible. From the moment the (Ridwell) bags arrived, the kids loved them. It was a nice dialogue with them. Are chip bags multi-layered plastic, where does that go? I feel like I’m making a difference. There was no hard part.”

Ollila first heard about the service while living in Seattle, where Ridwell started in 2018, when Ryan Metzger and his young son were struggling to find ways to dispose of batteries. The duo offered to pick up batteries from the neighbors, and the news spread. They published “Owen’s List” online to share more ways to reuse and recycle.

Ridwell now has more than 90,000 members in Atlanta, Austin, the Bay Area, Denver, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Portland and Seattle. About 1,000 subscribers have signed up in Pasadena. The service is also available in South Pasadena, Westwood and other metro areas.

Ollila said she has always worried about climate change and the waste her family produces. Her 14-year-old son was also adopted from the Marshall Islands, an archipelago between Hawaii and the Philippines. And as the oceans rise from the melting Arctic ice, the islands could disappear, Ollila said.

“So there is a personal interest and connection to saving the Earth,” she said.

“It could feel very conceptual and weighty and somewhat paralyzing, and when I first discovered Ridwell it felt like it was something I could do in a feasibly way and collectively make a huge impact.”

Users can view their weekly output on an app or an online portal. The company announced that its customers have diverted more than 22 million pounds of waste from landfills to date.

“You don’t feel like you’re the only one, they show you that you’re part of this community and together you just helped create outdoor patios or building materials. Seeing that impact inspires me to get other people involved.”

Jon Lagardere started as a client and is now a community manager and marketing leader for Ridwell in Los Angeles.

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, he said his mother, a science teacher, taught her children about sustainability early on.

“She always taught us to do more, like composting, which we thought was so dirty and we couldn’t understand the benefit of it,” Lagardere said.

Ridwell helps households waste less and send non-recyclable waste to the curb by finding partners who can upcycle or recycle items such as Styrofoam or thin plastic into decking or building materials.

The company also donates items to local groups (more than 200 nonprofits nationwide) such as Downtown Women’s Center, Alexandria House, Baby2Baby, Operation Blankets of Love and Westside Food Bank.

It also organizes pickups of featured or seasonal items, such as used glasses for the Lion’s Club or Halloween candy for the Boys and Girls Clubs.

“Ridwell is the fourth tank,” Lagardere said. “It’s understanding and paying more attention to sorting (your waste). There is no ‘way’. If you throw something away, it still remains on the planet.”

The trick is to learn something new and get used to it, he added.

People who ‘wishcycle’ or throw things in their blue bin in the hope that it will find its way ‘somewhere’ complicate the sorting process at traditional recycling centres, where things like coffee bags or ink cartridges and Amazon packaging often end up in landfill anyway.

Ridwell has a fan in Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward Humes, who praises the service in his book “Total Garbage: How We Can Fix Our Waste and Heal Our World,” released this month.

“There is hope,” Lagardere said. “There are little things you can do that add up to big totals.”

To get a free trial of Ridwell, Pasadena residents can visit: tinyurl.com/2fd3bnfn

Anissa V. Rivera, columnist, “Mom’s the Word,” Pasadena Star-News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Whittier Daily News, Azusa Herald, Glendora Press and West Covina Highlander, San Dimas/La Verne Highlander. Southern California News Group, 181 W. Huntington Drive, Suite 209 Monrovia, CA 91016. 626-497-4869.