The ROCC Pod

JD Lindeberg of RRS and Nextcycle Michigan

Episode Notes

JD Lindeberg is an expert on recycling and the circular economy.   He's been involved with these ideas since the late 1980's through both Resource Recycling Systems (RRS) and NextCycle Michigan.  

JD explains the circular economy concept and how it's going to affect Michigan going forward.  In fact, the area could come within 5-10% of the economic contribution that tourism brings to our state!

Recently, JD was part of the innovation challenge, hosted by the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.  In it, entrepreneurs pitched their ideas for contributions to the circular economy.   JD tells us about two of their winners, Wormies and NexTiles.

Finally, we ask JD about his personal life, and probably, our strangest "fishbowl question of the day" yet!


JD's email:

Resource Recycling Systems Website:

NextCycle Michigan Website:

NexTiles Website:

Wormies Website:

Lawrence Tech's Centrepolis Accelerator:

Jon Gay from JAG in Detroit Podcasts -

Trish Carruth from The Personal Jeweler -

Lisa Bibbee from Keller Williams -

Andrea Arndt of Dickinson Wright -

Know a Chamber member that wants to be a guest on our show? Email us!

And if you'd like to know more about the Royal Oak Chamber of Commerce, or join, find them here:

Episode Transcription

Jon: Welcome back in to the ROCC Pod presented by the Royal Oak Michigan Chamber Of Commerce. I am Jon Gay from JAG in Detroit podcasts. 

Lisa: I am Lisa Bibbee, your local neighborhood realtor with Keller Williams advantage. 

Andrea: I am Andrea Arndt, an attorney at Dickinson Wright.

Jon: And for our fourth co-host it could not be with us today. She is Trish Carruth from Your Personal Jeweler. We'll mention her stuff at the end. Our guest today is JD Lindbergh from Resource Recycling Systems, better known as RRS. JD, welcome to the show. Thanks for being here. 

JD: Well, thank you. I I'm enjoying this opportunity to talk about the circular economy. 

Andrea: We're very excited that your on our show, and we hope that our listeners get to know a lot more about your business and you, so can you tell our listeners a little bit about RRS?

JD: RRS is, I think, right now by latest measure, the largest consultancy devoted to the recovery of waste from the waste stream in North America. We provide a wide wide range of services. We started by setting up recycling programs across the state of Michigan in our early years in the late 1980's. And we've since expanded to do that both nationally and internationally. Lately we've been involved in working in Indonesia to try to help with the ocean plastics problem which is very exciting.

Probably in the last 15 or 20 years, the work we've done on the public sector side has transitioned as well into the private sector. So, as major corporations began thinking about how they can design packaging so it could be more easily recycled. 

Lisa: So J D how exactly does RRS work in the local community? 

JD: Well, I think you may be leading into talking about NextCycle, Michigan a little bit, but we like to bring together the different stakeholders within the community.

Existing infrastructure owners and operators. Waste haulers, recyclable collectors, individual residents, commercial participants, industrial participants, even institutional participants like hospitals, universities, and get them to work together to recover more materials out of the waste stream through better education, creating necessary infrastructure, and ultimately helping to build markets for this material.

Andrea: Well, that's awesome. I wish you the most success in this, and apparently you've been doing a great job since your business has been around for over 30 years. You mentioned Nextcycle, Michigan. Can you tell us a little more about that? 

JD: Well, Nextcycle is an RRS brand name. Michigan is its biggest version. We're already doing it Colorado and in Washington state as well, but Nextcycle is a circular economy initiative and let's talk quickly about circular economy.

Circular economy is taking waste, turning it into a commodity, and then returning that commodity as a raw material into an industrial process so that it can replace what we would call virgin raw material. So it has the benefit of reducing dependence on landfill reduced carbon emissions, which is something that's very important in the world that has to deal with climate change and frankly, one of the exciting things and one of the best things about Nextcycle is it increases jobs in the state of Michigan as well because we keep those activities here in the state. 

Lisa: So I love that you mentioned that we're not only reusing materials, but actually turning it into a commodity. So what is one of the most unique items that you have seen repurposed and then turned into a commodity? 

JD: Unique? Well, I should start by saying we deal first with the boring material. Glass, paper, cardboard, plastic bottles, metal materials, but we don't limit ourselves and Nextcycle to just those materials that which we try to recycle at the curbside.

I can remember back in the day when I walked into Buick City, for those, that sort of dates me. But back when city of Flint had the big complex that made Buicks, there were massive containers of little plastic rings. It's about the size of your little finger, that covered the ends of spark plugs and the person who was running the, what would today be called the zero waste operations at Buick City. very proudly talked about how he collected millions of these, these little plastic rings, accumulated them in truckload sizes and sent them back to Alabama to be reground into plastics, to make new materials for the auto supply. That's always stuck with me because there are just so many of these things.

And this man was so excited about the contribution he was making to reducing waste there in the early nineties. Way ahead of his time, pity that it didn't save Buick city, because had his efforts been what described that whole thing. I think we'd still be driving Buicks. 

Andrea: That's for sure. So who and what business stages is next cycle, Michigan program for? 

JD: One of the things that's really exciting about Nextcycle and Michigan, as opposed to Colorado where we started. We actually broadened the organizations that could be participants in this. I would say that we seek the participation of for-profit corporations, non-profit corporations and entrepreneurial governments.

So the last category, entrepreneurial growth. It is the one that got added here in Michigan, that we'd never added in the other versions of this elsewhere. And all three of those entities, all three of those kinds of organizations have really important roles to play in creating a successful circular economy.

I would also say that we encourage startup corporations and nonprofits to come, but we also recognize that sometimes the biggest impact can come from existing, sometimes very, very large organizations that might want to site a new factory in the state. And in fact, just today, I was talking about one that I won't name, but it's a major manufacturer of film plastic who, if they were willing to come to the state and invest in a factory here, you know, that's hundreds of millions of dollars of investment.

And I want to be clear. That one of the goals of Nextcycle over the life of it is we want to see at least a billion dollars of capital investment to turn this around. 

Andrea: Well, that is very encouraging. Hopefully they do decide to come to Michigan. I had another question though. You said that you encourage startups to be involved.

Is there a particular business stage that is more preferable that they contact you? 

JD: So we have six different accelerator channels, one of which we call micros. And in my view, that's a $10,000 grant for people to go out and maybe put their business plan together, or take a particular weakness in their business plan and use that money to shore that area.

And so that's very early stage. It could be idea stage. We'd prefer to see something that is not a novel technology. Something that has been proven commercially viable because we feel like those kinds of startups are going to have the most immediate impact on the recovery rate within the state of Michigan and have the greatest opportunity for investment and then all the way to mature technologies.

You know, with our recycling supply chain channel, it's a matter of threading those known technologies together to say, Hey, we're going to get this waste. We're going to put it in a vehicle or a box. We're going to move it across the supply chain to someplace where it's going to process and then eventually turn it into a market.

And that particular channel is actually devoted to making the links that enable that that activity to actually occur. And so those technologies and RFC, recycling supply chain, wouldn't be novel at all. They're just the agglomeration of existing technologies into a whole that makes sense. 

Lisa: So, JD, you had mentioned that with, especially the micro teams and idea builders ,they can get a grant for up to $10,000, so who funds this and who are your sponsors?

JD: Well, excellent, excellent question, because I want to give a big shout out to Michigan's environmental department Eagle environment, great lakes and energy that stands for Eagle. They have chosen to provide sponsorship and pay the resource recycling Centrepolis Aaccelerator out at Lawrence tech and Michigan recycling coalition MRC have come together as the team to manage this Nextcycle progam.

And so they pay our freight to do the work that we're doing. And they also very importantly bring their renew funding through their traditional recycling grants to leverage these other investments being made by outside parties. And so. I think the latest number I've seen is that over the life of Nextcycle, they've committed somewhere between $13 and $20 million for funding of operational and capital upgrades to the infrastructure across the state.

Lisa: So could you tell our listeners right now about how they could apply for some of these grants? 

JD: Well, first of all, we have a very excellent website called Nextcycle Michigan. They could just search within that are applications for these individual accelerators. We have a set of these channels that come rolling throughout the year.

Some are focused on organics, composting, liquids, even anaerobic digestion. Worm farm development is one of the ones that just won a big award. And we have recycling infrastructure. We have these public sector tracks that help them get organized legally and structure themselves around the authorities, other groups and counties.

And so those channels are all available for application and we select these cohorts and these channels and where appropriate. We push them through a bootcamp and the bootcamp is the opportunity for us to help them take their idea and polish it up and create an idea that is then better fundable either by public sector or private sector investors.

You know, one of the key things I want people to understand here. I'm really excited about the fact that Eagle is thinking about its grants now more and more as if they're investment in the economy of Michigan and thinking about how they can apply those monies in the best way to get the best leverage they possibly can with other outside traditional debt equity, venture capital, angel investors.

Jon: JD. Can you talk about the innovation challenge? I know you did that at the beginning of March. We're recording this on March 8th. You recently had that event. Can you talk through with that and how it went? 

JD: It was great. It was hosted at the university of Michigan under the auspices of the Ross School of Business, who've been a very great supporter of NextCycle Michigan. We had a showcase event that allowed people to do a pitch very short, very tight, eight minutes each I know because I was one of the facilitators who they called "Dr. Hook." You only got eight minutes and then we're going to move you off. Even if you're not done. 

Jon: Play the music, get them off the stage, have the stopwatch, right? 

JD: That's exactly right. We had somebody up front sitting there and saying one minute left. I would stand up next to the podium and pull them off. In the afternoon, we had actually a pitch event that was a little bit more of an open situation where we had approximately $30,000 in prizes that we awarded for the best pitch, some in kind services and then a people's choice award $500 that everybody in the audience had a chance to vote on electronically and say, yeah, we really love this person.

So it was great. It was really fun. I mean, like you all know. We've had a tough two years. Haven't done a lot of things face to face. A lot of it's been virtual. It was fantastic to come together face to face. See some people we hadn't seen in a couple of years and a lot of the entrepreneurs and people doing the pitches were really excited to meet folks in person that they hadn't had a chance to do anything with over the last two years, except see them on Zoom.

Jon: The three of us, JD, we're talking before we started recording today with regard to going through your website and doing the research for this interview and the line that came up amongst the three of us was, this is kind of like shark tank for the recycling area, right? 

JD: Yeah. I think I'm a little more nurturing and I think we're because we're not on film, we don't necessarily have to be as dramatic.

Andrea: You're taking the fun out of it! Come on!

JD: You know, for me, the fun will be in five years. To see whether we've been able to get to the goal of 45% recovery from the waste stream that we've set forth. And right now we believe we're probably not doing too much better than 20% in the state. And so that would be more than a doubling of that.

And the aim of Nextcycle is to build the infrastructure and build the entrepreneurial capability to really move the needle on recovering more waste. Something that I think is going to be of interest to all of you. And if we do that, the economy for the waste and recycling economy will be contributing and sort of gross state product to the state of Michigan, something within 5% or 10% of what tourism does.

There was not a lot of understanding that this kind of circular economy has really significant impact on underlying jobs and economic vitality of the state. 

Andrea: So can you tell us a little bit about the pitch winners? What were they trying to do? Or what are they trying to do? 

JD: Well, the showcase winner was, Wormies, which is a food waste recovery through the use of a worm farm.

And I don't know if you know about this, but worms can consume massive amounts of organic material and the resulting worm castings, what's left after they've consumed that material, is exceedingly nutritious soil additive. And this gentleman Luis did a fabulous presentation and he's grown his Wormies operation. Using his wife's car and collecting five gallon buckets to something that is now on a industrial scale. 

Jon: I'm sure his wife has glad the five gallon bucket of worms isn't in the car anymore. 

JD: You'd sure think so. Yes. I think you're right. 

Andrea: Did he have any seat cloth left? 

JD: I'm guessing that car was fully depreciated when he was done.

Lisa: I think that's fascinating. And you had touched on that he started his business by using, was it recycled food waste? 

JD: That's what he's doing right now. Absolutely.

Lisa: All right. So I've actually seen online a couple of companies that have started some really interesting companies out of recycled food waste, and they actually turn that food waste into a material then that they can turn into clothing, fabrics, bags. Do you know of anybody locally that's doing something like tha?. And or can you touch on some of the projects that are local in Oakland county? 

JD: Actually, that sounds pretty innovative. I haven't actually seen any examples of turning them into clothing. One area, and I might put a mention out here that the pitch competition person who did win, that was a textile recycling outfit called Nextiles.

She's taking recycled textiles and making them into building insulation. So you get kind of two wins. I think that's a fabulous idea. And so did the judges, so she, won the big $18,000 prize. 

Lisa: Nice. Yeah. A lot of homes are looking for a new and innovative a way to insulate. So I think that's fantastic that they're taking it because we have an overabundance of clothing that, you know, we all like to think when we donate it, we're doing something good.

But often times those donation centers are overwhelmed and they're sending container ships full of clothing to third world countries. And then it ends up in the ocean. So by turning that back at the insulation and actually insulating the walls of our homes, I think is phenomenal. 

JD: Yup, exactly. So we do have some projects in Oakland county. Applicants to Nextcycle,

and in fact, one of the project participants, part of my team, our team with Nextcycle is Lawrence Tech, who's also based in, their print lab has based in Oakland county. A selection of some of the participants from Oakland county, Essential Recycling. Startup collection operation. Make Food, Not Waste, folks who are looking at the recovery of organic waste and using it as a feedstock to help grow new food.

Blake's orchard had some ideas around the reuse of orchard waste. As I mentioned, Lawrence Tech University. They are our teammate. The Centrepolis Accelerator there has played a very key role in the work that we've done to date. And then the city of Ferndale has been doing some interesting things as well.

Jon: Last question I want to ask you before we get to our fishbowl question of the day, JD. Do you find that certain areas of the country are more receptive to recycling than others? I know stereotypically the west coast is better about, you know, getting rid of plastic bags and stuff like that at checkout.

They are illegal in Hawaii. Now, do you find in working with different areas of the country, there's different attitudes, towards recycling?

JD: Well, first I'll say that recycling has been identified again and again and again, as the most popular environmental activity that Americans as a whole undertake.

I would say that the approaches and the attitudes towards how it's done vary from community to community and region to region. You see a lot more governmental intervention on the west coast and east coast than you do, perhaps in the Midwest or South. But I would say that in general individuals really like the recycling programs.

And so that's a pretty common thing that we would experience when we look at all areas. But there's different ideas about who should fund it, how it should be funded and how much of it should happen. I think the goals on the west coast are very, very high. I mean, California has, depending on how you count, has a 75% recovery goal, which to accomplish that is going to require massive, massive investment.

Lisa: So JD, it was great to get to know you and your business and all of the upcycling that you're doing for Michigan. We'd love to learn a little bit more about you. So can you tell us what you like to do in your spare time when you're not helping these businesses get started? 

JD: Oh boy, there's a lot there. So I'll start by saying, I'm a guy who likes to get my workouts in every day.

I used to be a runner, a competitive runner and now that's not working so well now that I'm older than sixty, so I've taken on biking. So I do that in the winter. I live in Mount Pleasant at the moment. And so I like to go up to Higgins Lake and ski on the cross country,ski trails up there. So I enjoy that. I enjoy reading. I spend time with my partner, Jane, and her dog who scares away the mailman and FedEx driver all the time. And we like to travel and see our granddaughter who lives in Kansas city and things like that. 

Andrea: And now it is time for our fishbowl question of the day where we pull a totally random question for you. Lisa, can you pull the fishbowl question of the day?

Lisa: All right. Let me take my hand in this fishbowl. Alright I a good one for you JD. If you were in an insane asylum, what would you say or do to convince them that you're actually sane, and not just pretending sane? 

JD: That is a random question. I guess I would revert to my engineer economists self and probably try to get my way out, of this situation. Sort of my latent geekiness. How's that? 

Jon: JD, I married an engineer and she logics her way through everything. So I'd imagine that's what you would do to get out of that situation. 

Lisa: Yeah. By the end of it, they might be thinking they were insane. 

Andrea: Well, best of luck. 

JD: I hope that's not something I ever need to experience. So, but now I'm prepared. 

Jon: JD. We really appreciate you taking a few minutes to spend time with us today. If people want to know more about Nextcycle Michigan or RRS, what are the best ways to find you online and resources available for our listeners? 

JD: Well, you can certainly find us online at, which will take you to our RRS's home website.

As I mentioned earlier, Nextcycle has its own website. You can search on that, Nextcycle Michigan. And, personally I can be reached at The coolest email address. 

Lisa: Well, thank you so much, JD. And my name is Lisa Bibbee. And I'm a realtor with Keller Williams advantage. I put the real back in realtor. Looking to buy or sell your home, purchase an investment property, or even start an Airbnb? You can find me on YouTube, Instagram, or Facebook at SoldByLIsaB.

Andrea: My name is Andrea Arndt. I am an intellectual property attorney at Dickinson Wright, and I help my clients protect their inventions and build their brands. You can find me on LinkedIn and on our firm's website,

Jon: I am Jon Gay from Jag in Detroit Podcasts. For help creating a podcast, improving your existing show or any questions at all you have about podcasts, you can find me at or on social media at JAGinDetroit. Also shout out to our fourth cohost, not able to be here today. Trish Carruth. She's a third generation jeweler and owner of Your Personal Jeweler, specializing in creating custom engagement, wedding rings and fine jewelry.

You can find her on Instagram and Facebook at ThePersonalJeweler, or on her website. I want to thank you for listening to this episode of the ROCC Pod,presented by the Royal Oak Chamber of Commerce. If you're interested in being a guest on the pod, we are looking for guests in the second half of 2022.

Just send us an email, The ROCC Pod, that's T H E R O C C P O D Thanks everyone.