Clevelanders Daniel Brown and Michael Robinson started Rust Belt Riders in 2014. Back then, it was just the two of them and their bicycles—picking up food waste and composting it for local farms and community gardens.
Now, the company employs 10 people and collects around 125 tons of food scraps per month, which it composts and turns into soil blends. The soils are sold through a subsidiary called Tilth. “Over time, we saw a business opportunity and then turned an odd hobby into a business,” notes Brown.
The company offers both pick-up and drop-off memberships, in addition to commercial services for organizations and businesses. And, in January 2021, the co-founders plan to turn the business into a worker co-op, to give full-time employees more of an ownership stake.
In the future, Rust Belt Riders aims to work with more municipalities and residents’ groups to collect food waste—and to expand the soil-sales side of the business as well.
Director of soil Nathan Rutz puts it best: “I’ve never felt a more sanctified moment than in the literal witness of practicing resurrection…with the cast-off food scraps of society becoming a foundation for good life in the future.”