University of Minnesota alumnus Arnold Castro was raking leaves in his yard when he ran out of heavy-duty garbage bags.
He packed the leaves into the next available option — standard plastic grocery bags. As he struggled to keep the bags open while trying to put the leaves in, he had an idea for how to make the process easier.
Using paper clips, he constructed a prototype for what would become the Nubagg — a lightweight metal frame that holds plastic grocery bags open, converting them into trash bags and creating a second use for them.
Castro, who was born in Mexico, came to the University in the early 2000s with an interest in electrical engineering. He was forced to leave the University and attend community college when his uncle, who funded his education at the time, had financial problems.
“My goal was always to go back to the University and graduate,” Castro said.
With help from his girlfriend’s family, Castro was able to finish his degree at the University. Once he returned, he got to work on his senior design project, where he and a group of students created a mechanism for detecting dangerous levels of water and gasoline in airplanes.
“That particular project is what really got me thinking of manufacturing,” he said. “I had all the tools available then to make it happen.”
Castro said he didn’t let go of this thought after receiving his master’s degree in 2007.
After leaving the University, Castro helped create a custom countertop sales company based out of Stillwater, Minn. His work with the company brought him to Houston, Texas, where he lives today.
Though he’s now far from the University, he said he never let go of the interests he found while attending school there.
“Ever since, I’ve had a bug of doing something, and it wasn’t until now that I’ve been able to finally do that.”
His wife, Amanda Castro, a University graduate whose grandfather helped Arnold return to the University, said she’s always tried to be supportive of her husband’s ideas throughout the years.
“He always has had lots of innovative ideas that he’s thought up or tried to work on,” Amanda Castro said.
She said she’s excited for the release of the Nubagg because of its eco-friendliness.
“I just really love the idea of reusing some of these plastic bags that we’re getting all over the place,” she said.
“It’s really easy,” said Sean Bartlett, a Houston resident who tested the Nubagg in his home.
Bartlett said he bought plastic garbage liners prior to using the product. He said the Nubagg saves him money while being energy efficient.
“It’s just a better alternative.”
Castro said he’s still in the process of raising funds and awareness about the Nubagg through websites and social media. He said he hopes the garbage can’s untraditional design and sustainable potential will appeal to people over reusable garbage bags and other environmentally friendly waste-disposal units.
“My goal with any one of these is first to start it on a local level and take it from there.”