After losing his job and friends, a young innovator stumbled upon a street piled with recyclable containers. This sparked an idea in his mind that would change the course of his life.
Sapeer Paz, inventor of the CanCycle application, said he battled depression in 2014 and 2015. He said that he decided to reevaluate his life after experiencing his lowest point of mental well-being.
Initially, Paz saw containers that were left on the street as a way to earn some money. However, he said his depression allowed him to look at this opportunity from a different perspective..
“When you are depressed, you become a little desperate,” Paz said. “I began to think outside the box and look at things more creatively. I thought to myself, ‘What if I was able to localize all these containers into one place and have it become easier for people to recycle?’”
Paz said this thought marked the first inklings of his CanCycle business idea. Paz said that CanCycle is a mobile application that allows a user to scan a beverage container eligible for the California Redemption Value (CRV). The process works by having a user dispose of the container in a bin that scans the recyclable material. Upon scanning, the user is immediately paid through the mobile application.
A business partner of Paz presented the idea before an audience at the University of Southern California School of Business, and the presentation caught the attention of the vice president of policy implementation of The Walt Disney Co.
“She sought my partner out afterwards, and she expressed to him that she wants to implement this idea at the workspace of Disney once it is ready to launch,” Paz said.
Paz said that in addition to Disney, companies such as the Monster Beverage Co. and Red Bull have expressed interest in the idea.
“Every company that deals with aluminum or any sort of recyclable needs to have these materials recycled in order to avoid being fined as often,” Paz said.
Paz said one of the primary reasons for coming up with the idea was the promising success from a financial standpoint.
“We’re losing from a tax that we have already paid for,” Paz said. “If we’re losing $76 billion per year on things that we can recycle, why not get a piece of that back? We’re disposing about 54 thousand pounds of aluminum CRV in Los Angeles per day, and I find that to be very worrisome.
Paz said his project could benefit the environment by helping decrease the amount of waste.
“If we’re able to modernize the concept of recycling by incorporating it into a phone app, then we’d successfully be able to combat the issues that are making our state a little less green,” Paz said.
Paz said he is mobilizing beta tests at Pierce College and California State University, Northridge. Once this is completed, Paz said he will venture to capital firms to seek funding that would finance his project on a larger scale.
“First, we want to open on college campuses, then proceed to office buildings and restaurants in LA,” Paz said. “Ultimately, we want to expand to the entire state of California and the nine other states that offer CRV incentives.”
In his time at Pierce College, Paz said he had a few people who served as an influence to him.
“Wendy Hoglund was my mentor, and she was such an inspiring role model,” Paz said. “The way she was able to connect with the students made me find her so powerful and influential in moving my idea along. Once I explained it to her, she was all for it, and she gave me confidence and allowed me to thrive.”
Paz got his chance to present his idea during the Innovative Brahma Challenge, a competition created by the Associated Student Organization (ASO).
“This event allowed for my idea to be expressed in a way that gave me the confidence to win the competition,” Paz said. “It was my one true ‘Yes!’ moment. This is where I knew this could actually succeed as a business.”
Program Specialist Raffi Kahwajian said Paz was always open to feedback during his time as a student, and he immediately incorporated the advice he received into his business plan.
“It shows that he has humility as opposed to a big ego,” Kahwajian said. “I saw tremendous growth in the span of about a month-and-a-half with the idea he came in with and what he actually presented at last year’s contest. This is all because of his positivity and accepting attitude.”
Parker Selby, friend of Paz’s, said he believes Paz is bound for success.
“He’s well-read, well-spoken and a problem-solver,” Selby said. “He learns everything he can about a subject, and he really tries to become a master at what he is doing.”
Despite what others may think of CanCycle, Paz sees his project as a victory.
“It wasn’t that I won, it was that the idea won. That’s the most important thing to realize,” Paz said.