Ballard Center Students Innovate Recycling

PROVO, Utah – Jul 23, 2018 – Ryan Smith wanted to make a difference in his community and for the environment, so five years ago as a BYU Marriott strategy student he founded Recyclops to provide recycling to apartment complexes. Last semester, he came up with an idea to expand his business by offering an Uber-like service that would employ local people to provide curbside recycling in rural areas. He approached the Ballard Center for Economic Self-Reliance with his plan, where he then worked with a student team through the center’s Social Innovation Projects to get this new venture up and running.

“We’re all stewards of the earth,” Smith says. “And it’s our job to take care of it. So many materials get thrown into landfills or into the ocean that could easily be reused or turned into new products.”

The student team consisted of four interns—Taylor Holiday, an economics major from Stockton, California; Rebecca McOmber, a 2018 humanities graduate from Highland, Utah; Emily Vela, an accounting student from St. Paul, Oregon; and Carson Whitlock, a pre-business student from Pleasant View, Utah. “It was great to work as a team because we were all supportive of each other and built off of each other’s strengths,” McOmber says. “It was cool to be part of such a collaborative group.”

Holiday was nominated to be the team leader. She says each team member carried an equal share of the load, was ambitious, and was great at prioritizing throughout the semester. “I learned that being a leader is not about being the boss, being the best, or telling people what to do,” Holiday says. “It’s about working hard alongside the team, being an example, making sure you’re doing your part, and encouraging your team members to do the same.”

The students’ main role was to conduct research that would help Smith figure out what problems might arise with expansion, which cities they should target, what the recycling needs were in individual cities, and how much money they could help cities save in energy costs. Whitlock and McOmber also helped Smith with social media to spread the word about this new recycling service, leading Smith to hire them to continue to run the company’s social media once the semester ended.

During Winter 2018 semester, Recyclops started providing this curbside service to Cedar City, Price, and Vernal, Utah and to Preston, Idaho. Smith says he plans to continue to expand this Recyclops service into rural communities throughout the west.

“Every city has its own distinctive personality,” Whitlock says. “So there are different strategies for different cities. We tried to find a unique way to make recycling work for each individual city.”

Ballard Center adjunct faculty Alicia Becker, who oversaw the students’ work, says that by the end of the semester, 80,000 more Utah residents—who didn’t have the option before—now had access to curbside recycling. “The students worked together so seamlessly with Recyclops that I didn’t know which accomplishments were the team’s and which were Recyclops on its own,” she says.

Members of the team each say they feel this experience prepared them to lead and innovate in their future careers. “It was awesome to work with students from different backgrounds,” Whitlock says. “We were all in different stages of our lives, lending different perspectives, and working together. Having this kind of real-world experience always trumps theory and classwork.”

Ryan Smith with the student team.
(From left to right) Carson Whitlock, Emily Vela, Ryan Smith, Taylor Holiday, Rebecca McOmber

Media Contact: Jordan Christiansen (801) 422-8938
Writer: Katelyn Stiles