The ECGO team is on a mission to help universities, municipalities, and corporate offices improve their recycling programs so as many people as possible can help make a difference. Why is this important to us? It's simple, we care about our environment and our community.
We saw people who wanted to do good, but didn't know how. Our goal is to bridge the knowledge gap of recycling, and make it as easy for you as possible... and while we're at it... why don't we give back?
We believe in rewarding you for your efforts to take care of our planet. Good deeds feel good, but they can feel even better with rewards! Be a part of our sustainability movement today!
ECGO began as a student project at Georgia State University in 2018. Six students, including our founder Nicole Toole joined the Digital Learners to Leader program, whose goal was to create a technological solution to a societal problem. The group knew that recycling was a powerful solution to numerous problems, but getting students to recycle their waste was a problem in itself.
Their a-ha moment was when they realized students would do anything for Chick-fil-A… including recycling. This is when the team found their solution; rewarding students for recycling. In August 2019, it was time to test their theory. The team set up tables around Georgia State and encouraged students to recycle in exchange for discounts to restaurants on campus, including Chick-fil-A gift cards! Students LOVED the idea, and ECGO collected over 2,000 materials in under 32 hours and even featured on the Georgia State University news network, PNS News!
After this experiment, it was obvious that ECGO had found something special. Once they graduated from the program, they knew that it was not the end of ECGO. So, they decided to continue growing their business, and began working on a solution to implement it at a large scale: a recycling machine!
Shortly after, they were accepted into the Georgia State University-Main Street Entrepreneurship program, which helped them take their idea to the next level. The semester continued and the team built their first iteration of the machine. In February 2020, they pitched in the Main Street Programs Demo Day and won 3rd place in the competition!
This win fueled their excitement to continue testing the solution with their built machine. But unfortunately, COVID-19 came and put a pause on the project.
The team's founder, Nicole Toole, knew the business was pretty much done for unless they made a significant pivot. At that time, there was no end in sight for the pandemic. The team could either risk waiting it out or could create a new solution to tackle the problem. They chose the latter.
After this realization, Nicole decided that they could put the technology built into the machine and put it into a mobile app to detect the recyclability of any material. Not everyone on the team liked the idea, but the more research Nicole did, the more she saw a solution.
She took the initiative to reach out to recycling coordinators and stakeholders across the nation to better understand the issues around recycling, along with students and residents in her community to gather an understanding of their habits as consumers. Everyone Nicole spoke to confirmed that people were confused about what they could and could not recycle everyone in the recycling value chain.
Of course, the issue surrounding the confusion of recycling cut much deeper than the team initially thought. Nicole found that the rising costs of recycling were directly related to Americans' inability to recycle correctly.
In 2018, China placed a strict ban on America’s recycling materials, requesting that all imports have a contamination rate of below 0.5%. At this time, America’s recycling had a contamination rate of about 30%! Their ban caused the costs of recycling to skyrocket, and with little infrastructure and improper behaviors around recycling, it made things increasingly difficult.
So now, the team's incentive to guide recycling behaviors carried even more weight. With their solution, they could bring down the contamination rate, and drive down the cost of recycling, while simultaneously diverting recyclable materials from landfills.
Nicole Toole pitched this new idea in The National BDPA Pitch Competition, and they won first place! Their idea now carried an even bigger solution than before and spoke directly to stakeholders.
In January 2021, they launched their first beta test focus group with residents in their Atlanta neighborhood and continued learning about what encouraged and discouraged recycling.
In May 2021, Nicole Toole pitched their concept to the CEO of the Recycling Partnership, Keefe Harrison, and she loved the idea.
She then connected the ECGO team with the Recycling Partnership’s Atlanta team, and they connected us to Georgia State University! For the next 8-months, the team worked with them in planning a campus launch at Georgia State University.
As they planned their campus launch at Georgia State, they also pitched in E-Fest, a competition founded and sponsored by the founder of Best Buy, Richard Schulze.They left the meeting with over $17,000 in non-dilutive funding.After this win, ECGO grabbed the attention of Fox 5 news, Hypepotamus, and CW Atlanta. Nicole was even named one of Atlanta Inno’s 25 Under 25 in 2021.
In January 2022, ECGO launched its first soft launch with Georgia State University’s Piedmont North Housing facility. Then, in August of 2022, they launched the ECGO App to their entire housing facilities. In January of this year, ECGO will be launching at Georgia Tech! Today, ECGO is a part of the AWS Impact Accelerator of Women Founders and received $225K in non-dilutive funding.
ECGO has grown immensely in the past years. The journey has been long, and difficult, but also extremely worthwhile. ECGO is incredibly proud and grateful for the steps our team has taken, and we want to take the time to thank all who have contributed to our growth. In the years that have passed, we have grown proud of our solution, and confident that our mission can transform recycling and waste as we know it in the United States, and across the world. We invite you to join us in these efforts!