Northwest Arkansas’ growing entrepreneurial community could help solve some of the region’s biggest frustrations with recycling, including inconvenience, long lists of items that can’t be recycled and a shortfall in public knowledge and trust.
An upcoming event aims to jumpstart the process by spotlighting local waste-related businesses and awarding thousands of dollars to new ideas that waste less and recycle more.
NWA Recycles, an initiative of the Northwest Arkansas Council, invites the public to attend “Rethinking Trash,” a free, half-day showcase on Friday, April 21, to learn more about the unmet needs and untapped potential in the things the region throws away. The event will take place at the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks and feature three segments:
- A local entrepreneur Q&A panel with the leaders of Food Loops, Pedal It Forward, Ozark Compost & Swap, Food Recycling Solutions and Anew Lumber Co., Dumpster Detail, Neighbors NWA, Free Geek of Arkansas and CupStakrs.
- A pitch contest for new ideas and methods that would reduce post-consumer waste, reuse waste materials or help others do the same. Top prize will be $4,000 in cash.
- Lunch and a keynote talk by Dr. Andrew Dent, EVP of materials research at Material ConneXion and chief material scientist at Material Bank, whose international work in sustainability and recycling has been featured in a TED Talk and on NPR.
“At every step of recycling, from collecting to moving to reusing, a dash of entrepreneurial thinking would go a long way toward making the process work better for everyone,” said Dan Holtmeyer, recycling program manager for the Council.
“But local entrepreneurs and recyclers are often two non-overlapping circles,” he said. “My goal is to change that, bring attention to entrepreneurs who have bridged the gap and inspire others to follow their lead.”
“Convening seemingly disparate groups and finding ways to accomplish shared goals is one of the Council’s chief strengths,” said Nelson Peacock, Council president and CEO. “Recycling is one of many essential tools for improving Northwest Arkansas’ quality of life and fostering a strong and circular economy today and into the future.”