In 2009, residents of Kansas City, Mo., threw away 150 million pounds of glass because of the lack of local glass recycling infrastructure. Among this discarded glass were some 10 million empty bottles from local brewery Boulevard Brewing Co. The brewery's owner, Mike Utz, decided to take action, forming Ripple Glass later that year.
"Lack of a sustainable glass recycling program in Kansas City spurred us into action," Utz says. "Ripple created a collection network through 80-plus drop-offs and a processing facility to make furnace-ready cullet."
Ripple Glass built what it describes as a state-of-the-art processing plant to serve the metro area. The company also found a local customer that converts the recycled glass into fiberglass insulation as well as a business in Tulsa, Okla., that turns amber glass back into bottles, which Boulevard then purchases to package its beer.
Utz says community involvement has been a key to Ripple Glass' success.
Q: What makes you different from your competitors?
A: Our community involvement. Ripple Glass works with each participating community to drive glass recycling / recovery rates through an easily recognized collection program, educational materials and promotion. We also give back to the community. Working with one of our cullet users, we donate fiberglass insulation to the local Habitat for Humanity or the community's weatherization program, completing the recycling cycle.
Q: What new services or initiatives have you introduced recently?
A: Ripple installed in-process color separation equipment to allow us to cull out glass by color, like amber for bottle manufacturers, and other specialty needs.
Q: Where do you see your company five years from now?
A: Having a strong regional recycling network of glass collection and making Kansas City the national model for glass recycling for states without bottle bills.