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Recycled Ohio bottles getting new life as artful suncatchers

Post Time:Dec 05,2008Classify:Company NewsView:427

Glass ReFactory in Appalachia melts glass, then stamps it with designs

A southern Ohio recycling center that makes art out of trash is ramping up production of one of its most popular items, partly to meet demand and partly to help subsidize its less aesthetic recycling efforts.

The Glass ReFactory in Georgetown is one of only a few places in the world that melt beer and wine bottles, set the molten glass into circular molds and stamp designs onto them.

The suncatchers — sometimes called light catchers — act like prisms when hung in a window, capturing and dispersing colored light as they twist in the sun.

''It's a souvenir item,'' said Mary Jarrett, whose Denver-based Amazing Recycled Products company distributes the suncatchers to shops in national parks and museums. ''Some of them carry wildlife — bighorn sheep, elk, deer.''

Jarrett helped the Glass ReFactory create items that would sell.

The Glass ReFactory, with its small, homemade oven, turns out about 8,000 suncatchers a year. Mary Anna Volkert, the manager, thinks output can be quadrupled, starting in January, increasing revenue to about $120,000 a year to help subsidize the nonprofit Adams Brown Recycling Center, which handles all sorts of trash.

Some glass recyclers break bottles into bits and use the pieces in mosaics, earrings and such. Volkert believes there is only one other recycler in the country — Aurora Glass in Eugene, Ore., run by the St. Vincent de Paul Society — that recycles glass by melting it and turning it into suncatchers.

The idea came about as a way to save money, said Dan Wickerham, manager of Adams Brown Recycling, which houses the Glass ReFactory in a nondescript, warehouselike building just off a winding road in Appalachian Ohio.

Colorful idea Glass is heavy and expensive to ship to major recyclers, and Wickerham didn't want to just crush it and dump it in a landfill.

''We started with the idea it was costing us money to get rid of, and thought of a way to make an asset out of it,'' Wickerham said.

A friend who studied glass blowing at Ohio State University helped brainstorm, and the two designed a homemade furnace capable of heating glass to 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit.

''We fired it up and taught ourselves how to run it,'' Wickerham said.

The trick is matching bottles so that each one in a batch has the same melting point, said Warren Trefz, an adjunct instructor at the Art Academy of Cincinnati.

''Every glass has a very specific formula,'' Trefz said. ''Most bottle glass is designed to be blown by a machine into a mold, so it sets up very quickly.''

Aurora Glass was started about the same time as the Glass ReFactory, but came about independently, manager Chris Jenkins said.

''The director of the St. Vincent de Paul Society would pass this giant mountain of bottle glass going up to the airport in Portland and wondered what we could do with it,'' Jenkins said.

Aurora Glass can recycle up to 24 tons a year, he said.

Glass picked up curbside at homes and at bars and restaurants usually ends up at commercial recycling plants and likely becomes bottles again.

The Glass ReFactory's furnace can handle about 400 pounds of glass in a batch, or about 800 bottles. Wickerham figures the furnace turns out about 8 tons of recycled glass a year. That's 16,000 pounds — about 32,000 bottles.

Source: Associated Press Author: shangyi

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