Ridwell founder Ryan Metzger keeps his plastic film bag in the pantry.
Ridwell founder Ryan Metzger keeps his plastic film bag in the pantry.

While many people are looking around their homes for things to get rid of that just don’t spark joy, Ridwell founder Ryan Metzger hopes people will use his service to make sure those items don’t simply wind up in a landfill.

Ridwell grew out of a project Metzger started with his 7-year-old son Owen, first to get rid of some batteries.

“We had piles in our basement,” Metzger said of items he and his family no longer needed. “Here’s some clothes for Goodwill. Here’s some batteries. Here’s some old electronics.”

He asked neighbors about taking their batteries to recycle, followed by offers to help with other miscellaneous items that were hard to donate or recycle. The Owen’s List Facebook group started in December 2017, and then a website that drew in thousands of subscribers by last summer, Metzger said.

“As we got bigger, people would bring us ideas too,” Metzger said.

He left his job as director of growth marketing at Madrona Venture Group last July, launching Ridwell in October.

Ridwell is a bi-weekly service that focuses on four recycling and repurposing categories: Batteries, light bulbs, threads and plastic films, such as produce bags.

Customers have a bag for each category that they keep in various parts of their home; maybe one in the kitchen for those plastic films and one in the laundry room for tattered clothes. They then put the bags in their waterproof Ridwell bin on the porch for a representative to pick up on a certain day based on the company’s growing route schedule.

“We use normal cars for this,” Metzger said. “The bin, it sort of limits the size in some ways.”

A Queen Anne resident, Metzger started in 10 North Seattle zip codes, with about 40 early subscribers to the service; the company now has more than 400.

“Queen Anne is our most dense area,” he said. “Ballard is probably the second, but we have pockets of customers in all areas we serve.”

Ridwell has five routes in the city, and is expanding to South Seattle on Feb. 7, which will add three more zip codes.

“West Seattle will be the last holdout,” Metzger said. “We’re kind of waiting for the viaduct stuff to finish.”

Because there are more miscellaneous items than the four categories Ridwell covers regularly, the service has a rotating category that is usually geared toward supporting a nonprofit.

One of the firsts was Halloween candy, which went to Birthday Dreams, a Renton-based nonprofit that provides birthday parties for children experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity.

Customers often email Ridwell with a recommended category or partner organization.

“We love learning how our community can help other communities,” Metzger said.

The last rotating category was extra takeout items, such as utensils and sauce packets, which was a recommendation made by Ridwell customer and Pike Market Food Bank volunteer Ashley Mandel.

“We brought 10 boxes of utensils to the Pike food bank,” Metzger said.

Mandel contacted Queen Anne News to request a story about Ridwell.

“I am a proud early customer of Ridwell and love supporting a local business that helps me be a more responsible resident and citizen,” she wrote to Queen Anne News.

Ridwell charges $10 per month for a 12-month plan, $12 a month for six months, and $14 per month for three months. Most people opt for a year, Metzger said, and many also make that choice after trying Ridwell for three months.

Most of Ridwell’s customers live in single-family residences, townhomes and condos with outside access, which is what staff need to be able to collect from the bins.

“We have people who live on boats in Ballard who are customers,” Metzger said.

If more apartment property managers requested the service, he said, it’s possible the model for Ridwell could evolve. He’s also interested in how to help small businesses.

Staffing is currently a team of four, and Ridwell will eventually hit capacity. While Seattle is Ridwell’s only market now, Metzger is excited to see where it goes next.

“We hope to create jobs in the process as we have need for more people,” Metzger said.

Find out more about the Ridwell process and how unwanted items around the house are put to better use at getridwell.com.