KANSAS CITY, MO – Nowadays, it seems every brewery is recycling their spent grains and installing solar panels. Boulevard Brewing is going the extra mile, attempting to reduce their carbon footprint through the creation of ‘Ripple Glass.’
When Founder John McDonald began looking into creating a glass production plant almost five years ago, he learned some pretty telling stuff about where his used Boulevard bottles where ending up.
“I guess I always kind of knew they were ending up in landfill,” he said.
Though you can’t blame McDonald for his used bottles eventual resting place. Until a year ago, Kansas City had no recycling program for glass.
“The reason there was no program was simply because there wasn’t a glass processor that was close.”
After recognizing that the capital outlay needed to build a glass production plant probably wasn’t going to happen for McDonald, he shifted gears and began focusing instead on glass recycling.
“After doing our research, we realized that glass just wasn’t being collected,” he said.
McDonald raised over $4 million and built Kansas City’s first glass processing facility- Ripple Glass.
“We just got tired of being a part of the problem,” he said.
McDonald estimates that only 3% percent of the glass in Kansas City was being collected. The rest, about 150 million pounds annually, was making its way to the landfill.
Since opening the plant a year ago, McDonald’s efforts have moved the needle ever so slightly. He estimates that after strategically placing over 80 collection containers throughout the city, Ripple Glass moved that 3 percent figure to 12 in their first year.
While it’s not much, McDonald knows that it is a step in the right direction.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
He believes it comes down strictly to changing habits, which is why he is launching a series of public service ads that will hopefully move that 12 percent figure even higher.
“It’s hard to change habits,” he said. “That is the challenge for us – to try and make it easier.”
Of course there are some added benefits for McDonald. Ripple Glass operates as a “for-profit” business, selling the cullet (recycled glass) to two glass manufacturers. Verallia, who purchases their amber cullet, also supplies Boulevard with all of the glass bottles they use for packaging beer.
“It’s certainly brought our businesses closer,” said McDonald. “It’s been good, we are on both sides of the fence now which is interesting.”
At the end of the day, its still all about the recycling for McDonald.
“We really didn’t do it with the idea that we were going to make a lot of money,” he said. “Hopefully we can collect over 15% of the glass this year, which would be about 15,000 tons.”