Total Reading Time: Approximately 6 minutes.
Michelle Goth is the Program Manager at Ripple Glass where she makes glass recycling easier for Kansas City area businesses. She assists bars, restaurants, hotels, event spaces, and other businesses to establish and to improve their glass recycling processes.
1. What is the coolest innovation that you have seen in the glass recycling industry?
Michelle: By far the coolest innovation in the glass recycling industry is the laser sorter. This machine can be programmed to identify thousands of different colors of glass. When a color is programmed into the machine, it scans all of the glass on the conveyor belt, searching for that particular color. When it finds it, it quickly blows a puff of air which pops the piece of glass onto a different belt. It has revolutionized the way that glass is recycled by allowing people to recycle all colors together. If a certain color needs to be separated out, the recycler can do so with the laser sorter. We use ours to separate out amber (brown) glass for re-manufacture into beer bottles.
2. Does glass break down in the landfills? How long does it take?
Michelle: Glass does not break down or decompose in the landfill due to the lack of organic matter. If it is forcibly broken, it may eventually resemble something like sand.
3. What else in the field of sustainability is interesting to you?
Michelle: I think the issue of food waste is very interesting. Food composting is an underdeveloped area within the recycling industry here in the United States. Missouri Organic is pretty well established here in Kansas City, but I visit other large cities where businesses have no composting services available.
I’ve read that as much as 40% of the food we purchase in America ends up in the landfill. When you consider the level of resources that goes into food production, that is pretty devastating. [Jason’s notes: quick link to How to Stop Wasting Food and 27 Ways to Make Groceries Last Longer.]
4. What are 4 things that anyone can do right now to be better at recycling?
1. Start recycling! Almost a quarter of Americans still don’t recycle (at all), and nearly 80% of Kansas City doesn’t recycle their glass yet! You can find a location at Ripple Glass Container Locator.
2. Before you throw something away, search for options to recycle or reuse it. Recyclespot.org is a great local resource. [Jason’s note: Cells for Cells is a great place to recycle old cell phones and help families battling cancer!]
3. When you’re in the store, check to make sure the packaging you’re purchasing is recyclable.
4. Tell your friends and family! Most people are willing to start recycling if someone they trust talks to them about it.
Michelle: Owens Corning has been with us from the inception of Ripple, and has been an ideal partner. Without an end market, recycling isn’t feasible. That applies to all materials, not just glass. Owens Corning can substitute up to 70% of their raw materials for recycled glass cullet when they make fiberglass insulation.
Owens Corning lent their expertise as we refined our processing techniques and has continually worked with us to make sure what we are producing is usable.Their proximity to us (in KCK) really lends for a natural partnership that goes beyond a transactional nature. They help us give back to the communities that recycle with us by donating 100,000 square feet of insulation each year. This insulation goes to local Habitat chapters for winterization programs.
6. Where can people connect with Ripple Glass? Facebook? Twitter?
Michelle: Yes, both! We are very active on both Facebook (facebook.com/rippleglass) and Twitter (@rippleglass). You can also find us on Instagram (@rippleglasskc, #rippleglass) and Pinterest! We are seeing social media become a preferred way for recyclers to interact with us.
7. What is your favorite outdoor activity?
Michelle: Hiking with my husband. We’re spending a week in RMNP this August where we’ll primarily be hiking and fishing. I also keep a mean vegetable garden!
8. If the moon where made of cheese, would you eat it?
Michelle: I’d have a hard time not eating it. I love cheese.
9. What is your favorite Ben and Jerry’s ice cream?
Michelle: That’s an easy one! Half Baked.
10. What is your favorite place to eat in Kansas City?
Michelle: Potpie in Westport is an old favorite of mine. I discovered it early on when I moved to Kansas City six years ago. It’s cozy, and the food is wonderful.
11. Which community or area is the best at recycling? What RG container always needs to be emptied? In other words, who has the bragging rights for being the best glass recycler in KC?
Michelle: South Overland Park houses the busiest container at the Deer Creek Shops, which collects almost 50 tons of glass each month. To put this in perspective, that container is filled and emptied nearly 10 times per month. This area is closely followed by the Prairie Village and Brookside/Waldo areas. It’s a toss up depending on the month! We have a lot of support from the residents and businesses in these areas.
12. What container, that SHOULD be full (high population or other factors) is not very full? What can this area/city do to help the public become better glass recyclers?
Michelle: The container at Rockhurst University is one that has surprised us by not filling as quickly as anticipated. We think this is likely due to the transient nature of the student population. It’s a great location though, right off the Plaza! We recently advertised in the area, so hopefully that increases traffic.
13. What business that recycles with RG, would you like to congratulate on doing a great job in their recycling efforts?
Michelle: There are so many in the metro that this is really a challenge. AGC and Insulite glass both manufacture glass items (shower doors, windows), and recycle scrap glass at a very high volume with us. Both do a fantastic job and have seen a drastic reduction in outbound trash.
Another business that we are newly working with is Goodwill. They have so much glassware that goes unsold, and try to recycle everything they can. This project was difficult because they receive a large quantity of items we can’t take that resemble glass, like milk glass vases or ceramic plates. They have done a great job training their folks to only include the recyclable items and are able to divert a substantial amount of glass from the trash each month.
There are more than 200 bars and restaurants who recycle with us. Some do up to a ton a week, and some just a few bottles. We are constantly overwhelmed by the level of support from local businesses. It’s pretty remarkable.
Michelle: No, but that’s brilliant! We’re working on a school curriculum program right now. I’ll try to sneak that in.
15. What industry do you feel needs the most improvement when it comes to sustainability?
16. What industry do you feel does the best job at protecting our environment?
Michelle: For #15 and #16…this is actually a very challenging question, because within each industry there are companies who champion sustainability, and others who ignore it or view it as a hassle. We’re lucky here in Kansas City to have so many companies who are environmentally minded. Hallmark, for example, has a comprehensive recycling program, and is working towards the goal of zero waste. Boulevard Brewing Company, our founding company and one of our investors has also achieved zero waste and does not even have a trash dumpster. We hope their enthusiasm spreads and shows other companies that yes, it is possible to be profitable and take care of the environment, no matter the industry.