With money on the line, entrepreneurs vie for recycling money

Updated Dec 08, 2015

Snack food that combines beer and granola; dog biscuits baked with spent brewery grains; and slip-resistant high-heel shoes made of repurposed vinyl: These are a few of the ideas judges will weigh Wednesday evening as part of a City of Austin competition meant to encourage innovative recycling strategies.

The [Re]Verse Pitch Final Competition will see eight Austin entrepreneurs competing for a $10,000 prize, awarded to the person whose idea best converts a waste byproduct into the core of a viable business with social benefit.

The event, free and open to the public, will be held at the Bass Lecture Hall on the campus of the University of Texas. Online voting is open until 5 p.m., when the finalists will be preparing their final pitch for the judges; the top five vote-getters will earn “People’s Choice” points added on top of the judges’ scoring.

“We are thrilled to see so many [Re]Verse Pitch concepts that solve for real needs in the community and reduce waste at the same time,” said Bob Gedert, Director of Austin Resource Recovery.

Among the finalists is Brewnola Bars.

“We intend to operate a manufacturing capability here in Austin and source our primary ingredient, beer grain, from the dozens of breweries around town,” says a pitch by Brandon Ward on the competition’s website. “By doing so, we will divert thousands of pounds of what would be waste from landfills and from bovine consumption and instead redirect back to human consumption. As silly as it may sound, when cows eat spent beer grain, it tends to make them burp more. All that burping actually leads to significant increases in greenhouse gases! There needs to be a better solution for spent beer grain.”

Brewnola Bars has a competitor for brewery grain — a proposal called Brew Biscuits.

“Austin is uniquely suited as the base to launch this business, with its strong cultures of craft beer consumption and inclusive dog ownership, along with a growing market for locally produced products, and support for environmentally sensitive facilities,” is how Cory Skuldt described Brew Biscuits’ appeal.

Judges include Gedert; businessman Ray Brimble; venture capitalist Scott Collier; social entrepreneur Zoe Schlag; and economic development and finance specialist Rosa Rios Valdez.

The competition is a collaboration between the City of Austin, the U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development, Impact Hub Austin, and UT’s RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Development.

The Bass Lecture Hall is at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, at 2300 Red River Street. The competition runs from 6 to 8:30 p.m.