Most Influential, Business: Ryan Metzger
Recycling company Ridwell began as a family affair
By Chris S. Nishiwaki February 28, 2023
Ryan Metzger is one of Seattle’s 25 most influential people reshaping our region. #mostinfluential
Ridwell began as a father/son project in 2018 when would-be founder Ryan Metzger and 6-year-old son Owen recycled and reused everyday household products. Ever the entrepreneur, the elder Metzger urged young Owen to gather reusables and recyclables from neighbors.
The first run was AA and AAA batteries. Finding the adorable youth compelling, his neighbors got behind it. Dubbed Owen’s List, the membership swelled to 4,500 members. By that summer, Metzger left his successful job at Madrona Venture Partners to start Ridwell. The company has since expanded to five markets in addition to Seattle: Portland, Denver, Austin, Minneapolis and the Bay Area, with ambitions to continue growing.
Borrowing from the Smith Brothers milk delivery boxes aesthetic and his experience running a newspaper route as a youth growing up in Sammamish, Metzger launched Ridwell with Aliya Marder, Justin Gough and David Dawson during the summer of 2018.
For $12-$18 a month, customers sort recyclables and reusables into separate Ridwell-branded bags for different goods, such as batteries, plastic bags, electronics, wire hangers and clothes, which Ridwell picks up at customers’ doorsteps in the aforementioned Smith Brothers-like deposit boxes. Many of the household goods are not recyclable via traditional curbside pickup.
“There are a lot of people in Seattle who want to keep waste from a landfill,” Metzger says. “The four of us got together and thought, ‘How can we scale (Owen’s List) up?’”
Putting up their own money as well as raising funds from venture capital and angel investors, the company has grown to 200 employees and nearly 100,000 members, including many of the original Owen’s List members. Metzger says that neighborhoods such as Queen Anne, Ballard, West Seattle, South Seattle and Capitol Hill have nearly 20% participation. Customer retention exceeds 90%.
“I want millions of people to use Ridwell and have a dramatic reduction in the waste for every household,” Metzger says. “We are growing by both growing in existing markets and by adding new markets.”