Waste not, want not: Family-run software company helps businesses take a greener approach

This is where the subtitle would normally go. I sure hope this looks good!

Operating on the logical assumption that every business wants to save money on purchases and reduce waste costs, a family-run company in Rockport, east of Gananoque, has developed software that offers organizations an opportunity to reduce, reuse and recycle.

“We provide zero waste tools that increase the value of surplus items and materials, converting them from liabilities to assets,” says Norm Ruttan, president of iWasteNot.

The company has developed several software applications it markets to various organizations, businesses and institutions. ReCap (short for recapture) helps organizations reuse items internally instead of paying to get rid of them and spending to replace them. The Surplus Marketplace platform does the same thing, but between organizations.

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Finally, the Recyclopedia is a guide to “what to do with it when you’re done with it.” As the name suggests, it’s an encyclopaedia of items that can be recycled and where within the region of the person subscribing to the software.

“So, there are topics like ‘paper’ or ‘aluminium cans’ and then the topic connects to solutions, so it’s supposed to be a very simple process for the user,” explains Ruttan’s son James Ruttan, CEO of iWasteNot. The software uses a translation service with 100 languages and is designed to be accessible.

“We put the service online and make sure it runs 365 days a year … and we typically give the customer an administration panel, so they can manage it and respond to questions from it,” explains Norm Ruttan.

The Recyclopedia allows any organization in the business of recycling items to log onto the site and list services, hours of operation and limitations, free of charge. The entry must be approved by the organization subscribing to the software.

“Then the listing organization that enters its information has control of it and once a year the system sends them an email asking, ‘Is that information still good?,’” adds James Ruttan.

Clients include the Recycling Council of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and the University of Manitoba, which uses the ReCap software to recycle office furniture within the university community and track waste diversion.

“We use the waste data collected by the exchange feature on the website to track the weight of furniture and number of items we divert from landfill via re-use within the university community,” says Allison Mac Intyre, zero waste coordinator at the University of Manitoba.

The software is customized for the client. “iWasteNot has adapted our website to function for our specific needs, including the addition of item weight, measurements of items and disposal forms that are specific to our campus operations,” adds Mac Intyre.

iWasteNot Systems has a team of seven programmers and a total staff of 17 spread out across Canada, Mexico and Bangladesh. “Part of what we want to do is not just what we achieve in the marketplace, but we want to be a fantastic place to work,” says James Ruttan.

In operation since 2004, it hasn’t always been a smooth ride for iWasteNot. At one point, the company ran into connectivity issues that nearly had it leaving the municipality of Leeds and the Thousand Islands.

Once that was fixed, then it reached a stage where it had to completely revamp its products. “We got to the point that, rather than keep modifying the software to try to make it work with the new and updated internet, we went back to square one and began to rebuild it from the ground up,” says Norm Ruttan.

That took considerable investment in dollars and time and by then other platforms like Kijiji and Facebook Marketplace that were free had sprung up and many of iWasteNot’s original customers had melted away.

“We felt we were so close to launching new software that we could be proud of that we just hunkered down on simmer, kept our costs low, plugged away … and waited to see if we could catch a break,” chuckles Norm Ruttan.

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