Talking Trash: A Reddit AMA with Rubbish

A image that symbolizes the Reddit x rubbish event, "Ask Me Anything"

On Earth Day, the Rubbish team did a live AMA on Reddit. Full disclosure: I don’t Reddit, and was curious and unsure about what types of questions we would receive during an “Ask Me Anything”. Emin, Felipe, Adam, and I (the team!) were excited to share our experience and talk trash.

At 8 am, we formed a virtual war-room via FaceTime and for the rest of the day, rapid-fire answered questions about why we care so much about litter. There was a lot of talk about data, poop, and how we are committed to growing our company Rubbish with the challenges of being in one of the most expensive cities in the United States.

There were questions about litter origins:

Someone asks "where does all the litter come from?" Felipe's answer: "it comes from everyone consuming things - and that's a part of our lives"
Our take on litter origins.

And questions about how San Francisco improving the conditions of the streets:

Someone asks "what is the #1 thing the SF government could do to reduce litter the most". Elena: "educate residents on best practices and keep them in the loop on developments. Data-driven solutions will help." Felipe: "making littering less easy and having the infrastructure in place such as cigarette receptacles in the right places, based on data not feelings"
There’s a bunch of things cities can do to reduce litter — these are just some.

We were asked several times our most memorable moment from picking up litter, which brought out some other folks who’ve been helped by a stranger:

Someone asks: "what's the most memorable thing you found while picking up litter?" Emin: "backpack containing empty wallets and passports of a German couple on their honeymoon. We got them back their stuff that night!"
True story.

There were many questions about trash can placement, common litter, and cigarettes — including a few talking about cigarette facts:

People start a conversation about how cigarettes are bad for people and the environment
Never too much cigarette butt talk.

In fact, Rubbish worked with Hey Social Good (thanks Cindy!) to evaluate the potential impact of cigarettes. We learned that one cigarette can contaminate 1,000 liters of water. With that assumption, the 35,574 cigarette butts picked up using the Rubbish Platform in 2019 successfully prevented the contamination of 35,574,000 liters of water (or 150,362,505 - 8oz Red Bull cans, or 9,397,656 gallons of milk). Holy smokes.

Someone asks if cigarettes are recycable. Yes!

Some questions were very up our alley:

Someone asks if we have gamified picking up trash. They read our mind, stay tuned!
We’re spending a lot of COVID-19 time planning this…
Someone asks how they can get the smart litter picker upper. Felipe is making more in his apartment and designing a new one.
Sign up for a Rubbish Beam here!

We were delighted by the amount of engagement in the discussion; sometimes we couldn’t even answer before someone else did:

Someone asks what is the value of getting data out of litter. Elena: "in order to solve a problem, we need to understand it (gather data!)."
We love a good conversation.

And some joking along the way:

Someone enjoys all the subtle jokes in the AMA, such as "hotdog/not hotdog".
Humor is always great.
Someone asks what the grossest thing we found when picking up litter. Felipe and Emin agree it was half a pigeon.
Many a pun.

We talked about why we decided to do this:

Someone asks why we do this. Felipe and Elena find fulfillment and meaning. Emin says for the shitposts.
There are many reasons — but these are the ones that were top of mind for us.

People asked how we took this chance, and we were happy to share our truth:

Someone says "money helps". None of us came from money and we all went to public schools but we all managed to get good jobs.
Money helps — but that wasn’t the case for us.

And how:

Someone asks how we can afford to quit our jobs to do this. Felipe had saved up and moonlighted. Elena and Emin bootstrapped.
It’s an uphill battle, but we love it.
Someone asks how we managed funding. Elena: we met the man who later became our first investor while picking up trash. We're fundraising now and have a few customers for our tools and data.
Another true story.

And some inspiring messages, that I may look back to on days when going gets hard:

People leave inspiring messages such as "these folks are each taking an enormous personal career risk to make our country better... they should be congratulated on their willingness to gamble on their own skills... innovators like these people - whether they succeed or not - are what make this country so successful, and they should be supported and celbrated every step of the way."
Thanks, beautiful stranger, for your motivating words!
Someone asks if they could intern for us. Yes, yes you can! Email us at
Yes — yes you can. Please email us at

It was fun to see our team, socially distant, answering questions, and enjoying the conversation.

Picture of the Rubbish team: Felipe (hardware extraordinaire), Emin (programming wizard), Adam (programming mage), and Elena (operations expert).

We had a great day. Thanks to everyone who asked a question and spent some time with us on Earth Day!

You can check out our full r/iAMA here.

Please email me at with any trash thoughts — I’d love to hear from you.

Written by
Elena Guberman