Small Business & Startups and Sustainability

Couple offers recycling solution

RecycleBoxBin provides unobtrusive bins, hopes to educate community on good recycling habits.

March 23, 2018
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Thousands of the bins can be found throughout the United States and all over the world. Photo by Justin Dawes

After John and Melissa Ziech started a business in 2011 selling recycling bins, they weren’t sure it would last. But a week before RecycleBoxBin’s third anniversary, significant amounts of orders started coming in.

Now, thousands of their bins can be found throughout the United States and all over the world.

Melissa Ziech said she can tell which areas are getting into recycling based on the number of orders it gets from those areas. The company recently sent “truckloads” to New York, which passed a business recycling law.

Some of RecycleBoxBin’s first big customers were Whirlpool and Dart Container Corp. It also has done business with Sony, LinkedIn and government offices, among many other customers.

The bins are used in the S.O.R.T. — separate, organic compost, recycle and trash — program during ArtPrize, meant to educate visitors during the festival about waste diversion.

“We can’t really tell you who our market is,” John Ziech said. “It’s all over the map.”

The business recently moved to 3555 32nd St. SE, Suite B, in Grand Rapids after outgrowing its previous space.

The idea for the business came around 10 years ago when Ziech was working as a designer for Steelcase. He said many clients asked if the company had recycling bins to order, and the answer was no at the time.

He was charged with finding an affordable, attractive bin the company could sell.

During his research, he found nice bins, but some were worth up to $2,000, which was not in the company’s budget. So, he designed a temporary solution made of corrugated plastic.

He left Steelcase shortly after, and the couple was considering retiring.

Melissa Ziech is a former schoolteacher and knew schools were struggling to affordably start recycling programs.

They thought there might be a market for recycling bins that are affordable and unobtrusive, something clean and easily accessible.

“People will spend all this money on a beautiful office, but then you’ve got a big, bright-colored bin, or in your classroom, you don’t need more distracting stuff,” she said.

The bins are made of white corrugated plastic and have a detached top. The label sleeves allow for interchangeable labels to accommodate fluctuating guidelines or a variety of uses. The bins are sold in singles for $79, doubles for $97 or triples for $115.

They knew nothing about online sales when they started. Now, about 80 percent of sales are through Amazon.

They wanted to make a profit, she said, but not at the cost of recycling. Last year, their sales were $300,000.

“If you don’t stay with our bins, fine. But we want you to get started,” Melissa Ziech said.

Most of the people interested in purchasing are those who work in businesses’ financial departments because they understand how recycling affects the bottom line, she said.

Besides earning money from selling recycling, it positively affects a company’s brand and employee morale.

The couple said they want customers to keep in mind they’re paying for a product made by American workers. They get calls every week from China to move their production overseas, but they choose to stay with local, “responsible” vendors.

“We know them all personally, and as we’ve increased our business, they’ve increased their jobs,” said Melissa Ziech, adding the companies took risks in the beginning to work with RecycleBoxBin, and now it’s paying off. “That’s been a great side effect.”

The top and bottom of the bins are made from a recycled material manufactured by Kentwood-based Thermoforms. The plastic piece is made by a Primex Design and Fabrication factory in Indiana. The printing, porthole covers and boxes are made locally.

The couple said they’d like everyone to start recycling more.

Melissa Ziech added she spends a lot of time educating customers about how to recycle or how to create recycling centers.

They’re starting to get more Michigan orders as state residents begin to recycle more.

“We’re hoping that the governor’s mandates to improve recycling will come through,” she said, adding recycling is not a priority for Michigan as a whole.

RecycleBoxBin offers free delivery and a discount to local companies and discounts to all schools and nonprofits.

To order bins, visit recycleboxbin.com.

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