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Rubicon CEO on how the company is tackling PPE pollution

Nate Morris, Founder and CEO of Rubicon, joined The Final Round to discuss PPE pollution and how Rubicon is helping businesses recycle their PPE.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: I want to bring in our next guest. We have Nate Morris. He's the founder and CEO of Rubicon. It's a company that's disrupting the waste industry using technology and data. And Nate, it's great to have you on the show.

Waste, it's a trillion-dollar-plus industry. Before you came along, it was dominated by a few players. Talk to us about how you've used technology and data to change the way that the waste industry operates today.

NATE MORRIS: Yes, thank you so much. It's great to be here.

You know, first and foremost, we start by moving an antiquated industry off the landfill model. Most people don't know this, but the traditional waste companies that have dominated the industry for generations make most of their profit by filling up landfills.

We believe we want to offer the market a choice to be able to use a digital model and be agnostic about where their material goes, and we do that by not owning trucks or landfills but by using a digital network and empowering independent haulers around the United States and various parts of the world to move material away from landfilling and into more recycling options.

And we believe this is better for the planet. This creates a more resilient community. And we believe, especially since the world is moving more along with ESG values, that this is what the market is going to reward for generations to come.

ANDY SERWER: Hey, Nate, so talk to us about this PPE problem, though. How big is it, if you can quantify it for us?

NATE MORRIS: Absolutely. I mean, think about it, Andy. Since COVID happened, we have about 150 million masks that have been issued just in the United States alone. Over a billion gloves-- or excuse me, over a billion gloves that have been issued as well that have been used. And this has all got to go somewhere, so this is a glut of waste that is showing up in our parks, on our streets, on our beaches.

And the problem has been also exacerbated because China has also stopped taking a lot of our waste. So we have not only a waste problem related to COVID, we also have an infrastructure problem in our country. We do not have the infrastructure needed to manage all the recyclables and all the waste that we have.

So part of the solution at Rubicon, we are collecting a lot of data that's coming in to be able to inform the resilient solutions that need to get built for the future and, through innovation, be able to inform what the future infrastructure needs to look like so as we're facing the pandemics of the future in a post-COVID world, how do we solve these solutions better?

We also think that we can do our part today immediately by using renewable-- or excuse me, reusable solutions like nondisposable mask, cloth masks, doing these little things so we're not creating more trash in the interim.

AKIKO FUJITA: Nate, can you also talk about what's happening on the recycling front, particularly with cities and states? Just so short-- I mean, they just don't have the money to keep these problems going. I mean, you look at New York City. They don't-- you know, recycling specifically, I mean, they've had to cut back on the program there because of budget cuts. I mean, how does that complicate the overall picture when you talk about just the amount of waste that's been pushed out but also the inability to recycle any of that?

NATE MORRIS: It's a great question. And again, I think it gets back to the waste and recycling industry is a tremendous jobs opportunity for our country, and I believe it's going to be one of the big green jobs creators for years to come if we leverage this correctly. And I think it's a tremendous bipartisan issue, but we've got to get our policy right to encourage growth around building the necessary infrastructure that is going to feed the green economy that's going to be a free-market solution and encourage people to do the right thing and encourage businesses to do the right thing and not continue to bury our problems, no pun intended.

Right now, we have a landfill-based industry problem that we have neglected for generations because it's been a great business for a lot of people, but it hasn't been the right thing, and it hasn't been a solution that's been sustainable. And I think because of ESG and the focus around ESG, particularly from the sovereign-wealth community, particularly now from the private-equity community, particularly from folks like Larry Fink, they're changing the dialogue.

We found ourselves now in the midst of COVID where we cannot continue business as usual, and I think things are going to change. And we're going to examine to say, what is the infrastructure that we need to be resilient going forward, and what is it going to take to collaborate?

And I think it's a great jobs story, and it's a great opportunity to really fix a problem but also to grow. So I hope that really we take this opportunity to reflect because we've got to think about not only how we respond but what the post-COVID world is going to look like for years to come.