Can’t recycle? Upcycle!

By Erika DeLeo
Staff Writer

Since August 2010, the city of Prescott no longer recycles glass, and two Prescott College students are going grass-roots, or, one could say, glassroots.

West Howland and Rachel Vanderpool started “Glassroots Upcycling” as an independent study last fall after learning the city of Prescott had suspended the glass recycling program. Internet research on home recycling led them to start cutting their own glass waste and re-purposing it into usable ware. Since then, the project has taken off.

Upcycling differs from downcycling and recycling, in which glass is either crushed for fill or is melted for reforming, respectively. Instead, Howland and Vanderpool simply cut off the necks and shoulders off glass containers, transforming wine, liquor, juice, and other large bottles into bowls, cups, and other glassware.

Most popular are bottles with baked-on labels, such as Rogue beer. “They go quickest,” said Vanderpool, referring to sales. While they are not currently accepting most glass from the general public, they will accept bottles with baked-on labels, because those sell faster than other bottles. “We are not a recycling center,” Vanderpool wants to clarify.

Despite the enthusiasm from the community, Glassroots Upcycling is at risk. “It’s all up in the air right now” said Vanderpool. They do not know if they will be able to continue it after this semester, due to space and storage issues.

Glassware sales do not reap much profit, but “it feels really good to be doing it,” Vanderpool commented. “We’ll see if we can make enough money to continue.” Having access to a kiln would make their project even more efficient, allowing them to smooth the glass rims without sandpaper.

Their innovative glasses can be found around the community. A trial-run of pint-sized glasses is being used at the Raven Café in downtown Prescott. The couple sells items at Prescott College community lunch in the Crossroads Center at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesdays. Soup cups start at $2. They are hoping that Etsy.com, an online marketplace for handmade goods, will be their main outlet.

The pair is working hard to compensate for an entire city without proper glass recycling. What other members of the area can do to reduce glass waste is to buy beer in cans instead of bottles. Glass jars with re-sealable lids can be reused for carrying drinks and food on the go, or for storing food.

New Frontiers allows customers to fill glass jars with bulk foods, eliminating the need for plastic bags. The store only asks that shoppers have a cashier weigh their glass containers before shopping. Vanderpool and Howland encourage these methods as well, even if it means that they will not be receiving your recycled glass.

“If the city were to put us out of a job by bringing recycling back, I’d be stoked,” stated Howland.

For more information and to stay informed, like “Glassroots Upcycling” on Facebook.

This article appeared in the March 2011 print edition of The Raven Review.
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