The word “Uber” has quickly become the stand-in for the on-demand economy in general, leading to many startups describing themselves as the “Uber for X.”
Many of the companies in this space are fundamentally similar — they connect two entities together, usually buyers and sellers, in the most efficient way possible.
So it should come as no surprise that there are currently two startups being called “the Uber for trash,” and both are focusing on making waste less wasteful.
The first startup, Spoiler Alert, comes at trash from a humanitarian perspective. Spoiler Alert’s goal is simple: to make it easier for companies to donate (or even sell) leftover food, Techcrunch reports. The startup primarily connects those with food surpluses, like retailers, to nonprofits that are looking for food donations. And Spoiler Alert transactions are logged to make it easy for the donors to claim tax deductions.
During the three-month beta period almost 10,000 pounds of food were donated through the iOS app.
“Spoiler Alert is as easy as throwing food away,” co-founder Emily Malina told Techcrunch. “What we offer is an opportunity to save money through a variety of ways. If companies are able to reduce the amount of food they throw away, they can have fewer hauling pickups, which reduces hauling fees. We offer a secondary market for discounted food sales, which enables new revenue streams, and streamline and simplify the documentation for tax benefits, which are quite sizable.
Spoiler Alert is free for donations, but plans to make money on commissions for discounted food sales, as well as accounting and tax services. The app is only available in New England, but the team hopes to expand to New York, and then across the U.S.
While Spoiler Alert is focused on food, Atlanta-based startup Rubicon is taking aim at the trash hauling industry in general. The company started seven years ago with the goal of changing the way businesses handled their garbage, but now the team is launching an app focused on residential waste, Wired reports.
The app would allow you to book a garbage pickup like you’d book an Uber — although with a slightly longer time frame (think hours versus minutes).
While this might not be necessary for many people, the mere fact that Rubicon is moving into a space historically dominated by monopolistic behemoths has the potential to drive change. Rubicon, like Uber, doesn’t have any trucks (or dumps) of its own. The service simply connects people who want to get rid of trash with people who want to haul it, and Rubicon gets paid based on how much it saves both.
Rubicon is still in beta, but CEO Nate Morris told Wired he expects to launch in the coming months. Morris said his goal was to have trash pickups occur in 30 minutes or less.
Both Spoiler Alert and Rubicon are built on the premise that you can make money by providing the market with greater efficiency than traditional businesses. And Morris is confident. “We know from the past that when technology competes against brick-and-mortar assets, technology wins every time.” he told Wired.