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KC's glass recyclers say building sustainable city is good business

Posted at 5:45 PM, Apr 25, 2019

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — More people in Kansas City are recycling.

That's the kind of "breaking" news the people at Glass Bandit like to hear.

"I think there's a change where people are starting to think more about that, about the environment, about recycling," Jamie Arnold, founder of Glass Bandit glass recycling, said. "I think people are also trying to avoid using plastics so they’re going to glass more."

Arnold started Glass Bandit glass recycling five years ago. It's one of several locally-owned pick-up services that have launched recently.

On Thursday, Arnold was training a new employee on how to navigate the routes.

Arnold says it's a snowball effect; once people start seeing how easy and affordable recycling is, more names go on the list.

"We have about 2000 accounts," Arnold said. "It's mostly residential."

The company also serves commercial businesses like bars and restaurants.

Glass Bandit partners with Ripple Glass to drop off their collections at the end of the day.

Ripple started almost 10 years ago when employees at Boulevard Brewing Co. realized 150 million pounds of glass were thrown away, including 10 million Boulevard beer bottles. The company has more than 100 free drop-off sites.

The company serves the region and has expanded its service map three times in response to demand, according to Lydia Gibson, sourcing manager.

"That's allowed four or five small businesses to start up so we can take their glass in and recycle it here, so it's really an opportunity for them to create their own business," Gibson said.

The glass is processed at Ripple's plant - and turned into cullet, a sandy material, which then turns into more beer bottles or fiberglass insulation.

Last year, the company recycled 175 million bottles, or 40,000 tons of glass.

"When Ripple Glass first started, Kansas City's glass recycling rate was about three percent. Now we sit at about 20-25 percent recycling rate," Gibson said.

Other than being environmentally friendly and preventing the overloading of landfills, glass recycling can turn into a lucrative business.

"Today we did 1,500 pounds, but that was just in this truck," Arnold said. "We'll probably have another 4,000 in the other truck."

Ripple also works with Atlas Glass Recycling, KC Curbside Glass and Wright Brothers, which are other companies that provide curbside pickup .

Glass Bandit runs on a name-your-own-price model. The suggested monthly price is $7, but customers can pay as little as $3.