Ron Gonen co-founded Recyclebank in 2004 to promote and reward green actions. He is now NYC’s first Deputy Commissioner for Recycling, and has big plans for what can happen next.
“If we can demonstrate that NYC is sustainable, it’s representative to other cities that they can also be sustainable.”
At Recyclebank, Ron Gonen and partner Patrick Fitzgerald created a system to reward people for recycling, planting trees, or choosing products that are better for the environment with points that can be applied towards other goods and services. Since its launch, it has generated a wellspring of sustainable actions and scores of partnerships with well-known brands and schools across the nation.
Having successfully reached millions through Recyclebank, Ron is now transitioning into a new role as the first New York City Deputy Commissioner for Recycling (he also remains on Recyclebank’s Board of Directors). He expressed enthusiasm at transitioning “from trying to sell ideas to cities to having the biggest city in North America say we’re going to institute your ideas from the inside.” By drastically improving the infrastructure, he believes NYC has the power (and perhaps also the responsibility) to become a model for sustainability. He’s convinced it’s “one of the most important, if not the most important, cities in the world.”
Specifically, Ron wants to improve the low rates of participation in low-income neighborhoods. He sees the problem as being “80% infrastructure and 20% lack of information” and thinks it’s important for citizens to understand the economics of recycling. To encourage recycling in these and other neighborhoods, he plans to install 1000 new recycling bins around the city and establish pick-up services for organic waste and textiles. He says, “when people don’t recycle, it costs the city a lot of money.” If Ron’s initiatives have the potential to create a new stream of revenue and a dose of civic pride, they may be just the incentives the city needs to improve its recycling habit.