When Colin Bell introduced a new technology — a sensor in a dumpster — five years ago, he probably didn’t know it would make his company, RecycleSmart Solutions, the fastest-growing in Richmond in 2017.
The list of Canada’s 500 Fastest-Growing Companies was unveiled recently and includes three from Richmond.
RecycleSmart ranks 14th nationally and No.1 in Richmond with a revenue growth from $400,000 to $20 million in the past five years. “The sensor technology we started implementing five years ago is the secret to our success and what makes us grow faster than our competitors,” said Bell.
The company installs a sensor in each bin, tracking how many recyclables or waste is in it and how the amount changes over time. It then report the information to the clients.
Based on the data, Bell then works with pick-up contractors to ensure that waste and recycling bins are at least 85 per cent full when they are picked up.
By doing that, his customers save an average of 20 to 30 per cent on recycling programs, according to Bell.
“Other than the prices, there is not really anything different between two garbage companies,” said Bell.
“But we’d sell it with sensor technology. We will make sure your bin gets picked up when it’s full, and we’ll know before it overflows.”
Bell and Jaclyn McPhadden started RecycleSmart Solutions in 2008, a recycling consulting firm, after they found that many businesses were paying way more than they needed to on recycling programs.
One of the reasons for this is that the businesses didn’t know how much waste or recyclables actually needed to be picked up and paid full price even if the bin was half full or empty, said Bell.
“Waste companies make pickups based on schedules, not the amount in the bin,” he said.
They then came up with the idea to monitor each bin.
At first they used cameras in bins to record information and sent it to the head office, but the cameras were often broken or covered, so they couldn’t report accurately.
After shopping worldwide, Bell finally found a Finnish firm that could provide the technology they were looking for.
“We also compare each bin with the data gathered: Is there too much waste and too few recyclables? Are there less recyclables this year than last year?
Then, staff will go and check through the bins to see what can be done differently.
Bell said most of the customers would invest the money they saved in adding more recycling programs.
“The censor is really making a difference. You would have no idea, unless you looked at the bin every single day, and took a picture, or wrote it down on a piece of paper,” said Bell.
“As far as I know, we are the only one that has this technology in the industry in Canada.”
The technology helped Bell win the semi-finalist at the Small Business Challenge contest in 2013.
However, at that time, he found it a challenge to convince waste management providers that the technology actually made sound business sense.
“None of them have come to me and said I’d like to put them in the bin,” Bell said in an interview back then.
Now the company is expanding its recycling “empire” all across Canada, with 30 employees.
Two other Richmond companies also on the list of Canada’s 500 Fastest-Growing Companies are Famoso Pizzeria, ranking 181st with a 361 per cent five-year-growth rate, and Photon Control, which ranked 316th with a 180 per cent growth.
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