Kalani Corpuz, a mass communications major from Rapid City, and Markus Heinrich, a business administration entrepreneurship major from Whitewood, spent their four years at BHSU encouraging recycling through the creation of the Cans 2 Cans Recycling LLC.

While earning their degrees at Black Hills State University,Kalani Corpuz, a mass communication major from Rapid City, and Markus Heinrich,a business administration entrepreneurship major from Whitewood, saw an opportunity to increase recycling. Their focus on being environmentally friendly ultimately led to the creation of a business, Cans 2 Cans Recycling LLC.

The University students both say the business is a way to emphasize the importance of recycling while making it more convenient.

As a freshman Heinrich observed the incredible number of aluminum cans that were not being recycled.

“I always had a sense of recycling and knew it needed to be done,” said Heinrich.

The business uses individually designed 55-gallon drums equipped with a can crusher on top and a re-usable mesh bag to catch the cans to encourage more people to recycle, whether they are at home or at an event. The barrels are distributed at sporting events and campgrounds as well as at individual homes.

“What this does is takes a regular sized can, crushes it to one-third of its size so you can hold about 500 cans in the barrel,” he said.

When the barrel is full, Heinrich picks up the mesh bag and takes it to R&N Recycling in Sturgis.

Heinrich had the idea for Cans 2 Cans Recycling but needed a way to market that idea.That is where Corpuz came in. Corpuz, the director of public relations and marketing for the business, saw the bigger picture of Heinrich’s design.

To increase profitability, Corpuz suggested selling advertising on the cans, Heinrich said. “You don’t make much with aluminum cans,” he said. “It takes 34 empty cans to make one pound, and one pound is 50 cents.”  Much of that money goes to pay for gas to pickup the filled barrels.

“Advertising will be our big revenue,” Heinrich said.

The business has been in operation for two years with barrels first placed at the tailgating prior to BHSU home football games. Since then, Cans 2 Cans Recycling has had barrels at the Spearfish Softball Complex,at the Lamphere campground during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and at a few homes. 

“For inside use, I put cat litter in the bottom which absorbs all the smells,” he said. “We’ve done it at people’s houses and they have it in their living room for a month at a time and it doesn’t smell.”

Both Corpuz and Heinrich said the barrels are a big hit at BHSU pre-game tailgating. “People were just throwing away the cans,” Heinrich said. This fall, Cans 2 Cans Recycling had six barrels at each of the five home football games during the tailgating and collected a total of 61 pounds for the entire tailgating season.

“Increasing recycling has always been the goal of what we wanted to do with this,” Corpuz said. “I think we got everyone’s attention not only when they are tailgating but also in their everyday life."

Heinrich hopes to market the barrels to other universities.“This is a great way to promote to other schools what BHSU is doing,” he said.“BHSU is really ahead of what South Dakota is as far as environmental issues.It is great to be on the forefront.”

Heinrich said the barrel is a work in progress. He is currently looking for funding to research a better design for the can crusher.  He also hopes to design a smaller version for home use. Corpuz is working with Rapid City distributors on marketing. The two hope to get some bigger companies, such as Coca-Cola, to advertise on the barrels.  The student entrepreneurs noted that it is a great way for companies to have direct contact with their customers, and they can measure that direct contact by the number of aluminum cans that are in the barrel.

While the two are hoping to expand the business, the foundation of Cans 2 Cans Recycling will always remain the same – encouraging people to recycle and making it easier for them to do so.

“This is my pride and joy,” Heinrich said. “I hope to make some money and make a difference.”

Check out the Cans 2 Cans Recycling Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/Cans2CanRecycling

BHSU – students, faculty and staff – is leading the way in sustainable living. BHSU was the first South Dakota university to sign the American College and University President's Climate Commitment. The BHSU campus also has two LEED certified buildings, the Life Sciences Lab and the Student Union. The Student Union was the first state building to earn this standard.