When mayor Kasim Reed and Atlanta city officials met the leadership team from tech company Rubicon months ago, the two groups quickly began talking trash.
The potentially pungent fruit of that labor are now ready for collection. Atlanta is unveiling on Thursday that it’s become Rubicon’s first public partner for its waste collection, with the city’s public works department set to deploy Rubicon’s app to improve how it picks up the local garbage.
Despite revenue in the hundreds of millions, more than 300 employees and a spot on the FORBES Next-Billion Dollar Companies list for 2016, Rubicon still flies under the radar with a business focused on waste. The company works with more than 5,000 businesses, including chains such as Wegman’s and 7-11. But Atlanta is the first city to sign on to use Rubicon’s technology, committing to a six-month pilot program to use Rubicon’s software and app.
Under the agreement, Rubicon’s mobile app for haulers, the trucks that pick up waste by the bin (and cause motorists the occasional traffic jam) will be deployed across Atlanta’s Department of Public Works fleet, which services 96,000 households within city limits. On the back end, public works staff will be able to track the haulers’ routes and field service issues from citizens using Rubicon’s vendor software.
Rubicon pitches itself as more cost effective and environmentally friendly than established public companies such as Waste Management and Republic Services, which carry a market capitalization of about $50 billion combined. The company says it seeks to do that through the efficiency and route improvement created by its software and by diverting as much waste as possible from landfills.
For Atlanta, working with Rubicon allows the city to potentially cut costs, take a leadership position on climate change mitigation and environmental policy while also supporting a local high-growth startup, its mayor Reed says. The partnership falls under a broader initiative Power To Change, which is tracking sustainability across ten different impact areas.
And the partnership is the first of its kind for Rubicon, a coup the company will hope will encourage other cities to work with Rubicon on their own waste collection overhauls. Rubicon’s director of public policy, Michael Allegretti, brings expertise in such efforts with him from his previous job in policy at Uber.
For Rubicon cofounder and CEO Nate Morris, the deal with Atlanta is also vindication of sorts for his decision to move the startup to the city from its founding in Louisville. (Rubicon still employs people in Lexington in Kentucky as well as in New York and San Francisco, but has most of its staff in Buckhead in the Atlanta metro area.) But compared to the big players like Waste Management, which employs more than 40,000 people and serves 21 million customers, Rubicon still has a long way to go.
“We’re thrilled to start this partnership with the City of Atlanta, which is leading the way on Smart City innovation,” Morris says. “It’s another big step toward achieving the goal of less expensive, more responsible waste and recycling.”