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How a wine bottle spun into Glass Half Full recycling

There was no way to recycle glass in New Orleans until recently. Glass Half Full, a glass recycling initiative, is working to recycle glass so that it can be used for something good.

by Marielle Songy
January 12, 2022

Recycling glass seems like common sense, right? In a city like New Orleans, where we love our alcoholic beverages that so often come in a glass bottle, it would only make sense that there would be an easy way to ensure that that glass bottle doesn’t end up in a landfill.

There was no way to recycle glass in New Orleans until recently. Glass Half Full, a glass recycling initiative, is working to recycle glass so that it can be used for something good.

From the wine bottle to the landfill

Franziska Trautmann and Max Steitz were seniors at Tulane University when they first had the idea for glass recycling. They were sharing a bottle of wine and lamenting that the bottle was going to end up in a landfill. 

“We thought that it would be a side project where we worked at getting glass recycled,” Trautmann said. “From there we launched a GoFundMe and realized many New Orleanians were excited and wanted glass recycling to happen.”

By February 2020, Trautmann and Steitz’s GoFundMe had raised $20,000, enough to purchase a glass pulverizing machine that could be operated in a backyard. The team saw that glass recycling was something that people wanted, and this was going to become much more than just a side project. 

Trautmann said, “We learned that not only was this something that was needed in the city, but it’s something that’s needed in the entire state.”

From there, Glass Half Full expanded quickly from its backyard roots — first into a warehouse on Joliet Streetand Leake Avenue, and then onto its current warehouse on Louisa Street. They are now backed by a team of staff, volunteers and community members excited about glass recycling and what less glass and more sand mean for New Orleans and the state.

So, how does glass get recycled?

When Glass Half Full gets used glass, they put it in their pulverizing machine that essentially hammers it until it becomes sand and gravel. From there, the glass is sieved mechanically, and the material is turned into a uniform amount of soft sand and gravel. The sand and gravel is used for sandbags, research in coastal restoration, new glass products, landscaping and much more.

Glass to be recycled can either be dropped off directly at the Glass Half Full facility at 3935 Louisa St., or you can sign up for the Glass Half Full glass pickup. If you’re located in Orleans Parish or Metairie, the team will come to your house and pick up the glass directly. 

“We started the pickup service in October, 2020 to help with funding,” Trautmann said. 

As of right now, glass pickup isn’t happening on the Westbank of Jefferson Parish, but that will change if people in those neighborhoods show interest in glass recycling pickup.

Trautmann said, “Right now we have about eight people in the [Gretna] area who are interested. If we get up to 25, we will go out there.”

Glass Half Full has done incredible work in the short amount of time they have been in operation, collecting glass not only from individuals but from a short list of restaurants and bars.

The team collects and recycles 100,000 pounds of glass monthly. About 70,000 pounds is from their drop-off program, and 30,000 pounds is from their pickup program.

Glass Half Full’s ultimate goal is to use the recycled glass that has been converted into sand to restore Louisiana’s shoreline. Sand is vital for rebuilding barrier islands that protect the coast from major storms; returning sand to the coastline will build a barrier that, in time, will defend smaller coastal communities from flooding. In addition, sandbags produced from glass recycling can aid in levee maintenance and prevent overflow.

Not only does glass recycling lead to less glass build-up in landfills, but it can save our state. That might be something to think about next time you’re tossing a beer bottle into a trash can.

To learn more about Glass Half Full and how you can drop off your glass or sign up for glass pickup visit their website here.

Cover photo courtesy Getty Images

Marielle was born and raised in New Orleans. She thinks it's hard to grow up there and not let the culture and history of the city become part of you. Whether it be the jazz, food, of fabulous architecture, she thinks most would agree that things are a little spicer down here. You can reach her via email at [email protected]

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