Jun 28, 2023 - Business

The Shift: Springdale entrepreneur's cups runneth over

A man, Rick Barry, holds a two-foot tube which holds plastic cups once they're used.

Rick Barry shows off a CupStakrs prototype. Photo: Worth Sparkman/Axios

Rick Barry's aha moment came in 2020, when Springdale began discussing an ordinance for its outdoor dining district.

  • "I heard that they were going to be using compostable cups and so I was wondering: How are we going to divert these from the garbage cans?" he told Worth.

Why it matters: The Environmental Resilience Institute at Indiana University estimates 28% of waste that goes to landfills could have been composted.

Details: Barry, who's full-time job is assistant director of planning for Springdale, realized that making it easy for patrons to recycle their cups is key to keeping them out of the dump.

  • He designed a simple tube to be easily installed β€” and emptied β€” near rubbish bins.
  • A 2-foot stacker will hold about 110 cups in 12- or 16-ounce sizes.

He and partner Jeffro Brown now market them as CupStakrs, customizable for events, venues or seasons.

  • They're used in various places around Springdale, Rogers and Missouri, Barry said.
  • He's in conversations with another Arkansas municipality and one in North Carolina.
  • Sporting and music venues are a natural extension for potential customers.

By the numbers: The invention has diverted more than a ton of compostable material in the past two or so years, Barry told Worth.

CupStakrs has not sought any investment. Barry and Brown are bootstrapping the company, but Barry is thinking about what investment opportunities may look like down the road.

State of play: Barry, despite lacking any training or background as an entrepreneur, ran one of 10 businesses in the spring NWA cohort of an idea accelerator run by Heartland Forward and Builders + Backers, a Washington, D.C.-based venture capital and accelerator firm.

  • The program prompted an idea Barry hopes will make the business more sustainable.
  • Customers could already choose customized, decorative wraps for the stackers, but for a yet-to-be-determined subscription fee, Barry will supply new customized wraps.
  • These could be event specific, seasonally driven or sold as ad space.

Worth's thought bubble: CupStakrs isn't new tech or likely to change the world overnight, but it offers a solution we all face, often daily: Is this recyclable?

  • Providing a narrow, specific place to recycle single-use drinkware is a tiny but important step in the right direction.

πŸ₯€The Shift is a regular feature to catch up quick on what's happening in the state's economy and entrepreneurial ecosystem.

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