A new service called Recyclops offers a recycling solution for Leland residents.
Specially marked vehicles are winding through Leland, their drivers taking things from peoples’ yards in broad daylight.
The vehicles, with decals of a teal, alien-looking critter – little yellow horns, pointy fingers, one big circular eyeball – appeared in early November. The stuff they’re snatching is packed in teal, logo-stamped bags.
And homeowners don’t mind.
They’re paying for this service, run by a company on a mission: “Bring sustainable solutions to people all around the country.” And, make the world a better place.
This is Recyclops, a curbside pick-up business for recycling that hires route drivers to collect paper, plastic containers, cardboard, metal cans and newsprint, then transport the bags to a recycling facility. The company already is active in Gastonia, Shelby, Bessemer City and Kings Mountain and is preparing to hit Mount Olive. Border towns of South Carolina will be added soon, giving Recyclops a presence in more than 160 municipalities in 17 states. Nationwide, it collects 250,000 pounds of recyclable materials every month and sends much less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than typical garbage trucks.
“One of the selling points,” says Dennis Wise, Recyclops vice president of sales and business development, about approaching Leland’s Town Council, “is we want to work with this municipality, and one of the benefits is you won’t see those big trucks and their carbon footprint. We generally use a ratio of 5-to-1, those big trucks versus our drivers using their vehicles.”
If employees use electric vehicles, he says, the ratio increases to 20-1.
Leland’s recycling contract with GFL Environmental expired in June. Town Council members voted in November 2020 to end the service, citing costs. The town website says Leland spent approximately $389,000 on bi-weekly recycling in fiscal year 2016-17 and was to see an increase to about $720,000 for 2020-21, leading to the town switching to once-per-month collections at a price tag expected to hit $600,000.
When the GFL contract expired, residents had the options to self-pay with GFL on an annual basis, transport their recyclables to one of four Brunswick County drop-off spots or, simply, not recycle.
Recyclops got the memo.
“When we saw Leland was cancelling their collections program, we sprang into action,” Wise says. “People started signing up three, four months ago. They come to our website and sign up, and when we get enough people [100 are needed], we offer the program. Our program doesn’t have a contract; people can pay for a month then leave, if they want. So if they like the service, they stay. We provide the custom bags.”
Recyclops focuses on residential first, to get it off the ground, but they do serve commercial businesses like churches and schools. “We always circle back and approach those folks,” Wise says.
If the company name seems familiar, fans of television sitcom The Office know that in season six, Dwight Schrute introduces his alter-ego, Recyclops, at a shareholders’ meeting and uses the character to celebrate Earth Day.
That’s pure coincidence, Wise says.
“We love the association, but we own the copyright,” he says.
Rewind to 2013. Company founder Ryan Smith was a student at Brigham Young University and living in a multi-family housing community that didn’t offer recycling. Being the environmentally aware type, Smith decided to solve that by starting a business. “And his father was like, ‘That’s not a good idea, son,’” Wise says, “But they started with apartments that didn’t have recycling centers, and they did it the old-school way and bought big trucks. And that’s when he found out why his dad said it wasn’t a good idea. So they started looking into an Uber-like service. It started in Utah then expanded to Arizona and Texas.”
Wise came onboard about a year ago, when Recyclops decided to go nationwide.
“We found 120 different cities that cancelled their [recycling] programs in the last year or two,” he says. “The bottom line was it was too expensive.”
Leland residents can pay $12 per month for every-other-week pickups or $20 for weekly service. The company provides the bags and will make additional pick-ups if a client notifies that it’s needed.
And the drivers? They make about $25 an hour and are provided a company shirt in addition to the car decal.
“The good thing about the program is it’s basically a part-time gig, and people can do it generally on their own hours,” Wise says, “But we like it picked up at a certain time. So, they have flexibility and it usually only takes about three or four hours. A person can do it every week or every other week. We like to have one driver per 45 homes.”
Wise says he’s spent about 10 years in the industry of environmental conservation, recently with Raleigh-based WasteZero, a company focused on increasing residential recycling. He’s familiar with the NMBY [Not in My Backyard] movement, which originated in the mid-1970s as people opposed construction of nuclear-powered generator stations and trash-burning facilities that would affect the environment and their quality of life.
“Recyclops is 100 percent focused on recycling,” Wise says. “We don’t take things [non-recyclable]. We guarantee that the material being collected is being recycled. People just have to understand the importance of recycling. We have to make sure we’re having an impact.”
Want to know more?
Leland residents can learn more and sign up online at recyclops.com/leland.