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EcoScraps (L-R) co-founder Craig Martineau, co-founder Dan Blake and former colleague Brandon Sargent look at mulched food at the EcoScraps facility in Salt Lake City, Utah, in this handout photo taken in 2011 (Reuters Handout)
EcoScraps (L-R) co-founder Craig Martineau, co-founder Dan Blake and former colleague Brandon Sargent look at mulched food at the EcoScraps facility in Salt Lake City, Utah, in this handout photo taken in 2011 (Reuters Handout)

Small Business Briefing

Entrepreneur turns trash into cash Add to ...

The latest news and information for entrepreneurs from across the web universe, brought to you by the Report on Small Business team. Follow us on Twitter @GlobeSmallBiz. Download our app here.

U.S. startup EcoScraps looks to cash in on consumer compostables

A U.S. entrepreneur doesn't just deliver the old adage that one man's trash is another man's treasure; he lives it.

Dan Blake, the co-founder and chief executive officer of EcoScraps is turning food waste into a profitable compost business, Reuters reports.

Mr. Blake said his idea sprang from having brunch at an all-you-can-eat restaurant in Utah, when he realized how much food waste he and his fellow customers produced. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans produce 33 million tons of food waste every year, and Mr. Blake figured that the market was ripe for taking advantage of the rotten food.

After dumpster diving to collect scraps of discarded food, Mr. Blake began to experiment with different combinations to get the most fertile compost. He then sent the samples to a university testing lab for soil analysis to hone the recipe.

A major advantage for the company is that the primary resources it uses are free, Mr. Blake told Reuters.

"A business that doesn't have to buy materials should, in theory, have really good margins," he said.

The company often collects waste from grocery stores and farms and then uses it to create large batches of compost and fertilizer. While the waste is free and EcoScraps gets a discounted tipping fee on hauling it, the transportation still presents a major cost, as food waste is among the heaviest type of trash and hauling companies charge by weight.

"Transportation is a killer," Mr. Blake told Reuters. "We spend a ton of our time figuring out how to cut down on those costs."

The business, with 25 employees, now sells its potting soil in Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.



CAPTCHA got your tongue?

CAPTCHA -- you know, those indecipherable text boxes you have to type in at websites to verify that you're human -- may be a thing of the past if one Detroit-based startup gets its way, Digital Trends reports.

Are You a Human, based in Detroit, is looking to replace the often illegible CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart) with a game to determine whether a user is human.

While CAPTCHA uses a verification system that asks a user to type out two words in odd typefaces that computers cannot read, Are You a Human's program, called PlayThru, uses a more intuitive, game-like interaction system. Users are asked to complete simple tasks, like dragging a motorcycle into a parking space or placing all the objects that do not fly onto the ground in order to prove they are not a machine.

The verification system is designed to look at the way people manipulate objects and differentiate that interface from how a piece of software would look at it. The games run on Flash, JavaScript and HTML5, so they are usable on computers, smartphones and tablets, regardless of operating system.

Chinese startup boom on the horizon

One of the last bastions of Communism is starting to see an explosion of startups, reports Forbes. Chinese entrepreneurs are launching their second, or even third startups that may outdo the initial wave of businesses that sprang up from 2004 to 2008.

Early startups in China were hampered by a lack of sophisticated management skills, according to Forbes, but the rise of young, business-minded students from major Chinese urban centres, such as Shanghai and Beijing, is fueling the change.

The largest froth in startups is in the technology section, prompting Forbes to dub the new wave of entrepreneurs as "China's Silicon Valley."

EVENTS AND KEY DATES

SOBCon

The two-and-a-half day "Cirque de Soleil" of small business conferences kicks off in Chicago on May 4.. The conference will focus on business creation, as well as expanding attendees knowledge on the social media aspects of business. For more information on the event, visit its website.

Business, Franchise & Investment EXPO & Conference

Aspiring franchisee owners will congregate in Toronto on Saturday and Sunday, affording them an opportunity to speak one-on-one with exhibitors offering franchise and investment opportunities. The conference is aimed at giving entrepreneurs at all levels of knowledge a better understanding of small-business opportunities. The event will be hosted in the Queen Elizabeth Building at Exhibition Place. For more information, visit its event listing.

EDITOR'S PICKS FROM REPORT ON SMALL BUSINESS

Big Risk, Big Reward: Striking black gold in the oil sands

Check out the breadth of work the Alberta oild sands have to offer to small businesses, as well as the intense demands the booming oil industry carries in our five-part slideshow. This article is also available in the Report on Small Business magazine, available in its entirety online for the first time.

FROM THE ROSB ARCHIVES

Homegrown hops

What's a homebrewer to do when a crucial ingredient hits a major shortage? They go ahead and grow it themselves, wrote Sarah Elton in this August, 2008 article. B.C. brewers began looking local when a worldwide hops shortage drove prices of the ingredient up, and were able to help support local farmers in the process. Hops, necessary for the malty beverage, had become a rare crop in Canada as production moved to more fertile growing conditions overseas. But that began to change, and now hops are re-emerging as a Canadian crop.

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