Headquartered in Patterson, NY, new NERC Advisory Member Bottle Crusher US is the sole domestic distributor of compact glass bottle crushers designed and manufactured by New Zealand-based Expleco. Describing the products distributed by Bottle Crusher US, Expleco states, “We provide solutions that are both economically and environmentally sustainable and reduce pressure on global landfill and waterway catchments. Our aim is to assist and support environmentally conscious brands and establishments in their ongoing battle to minimize their operational footprint.”
NERC spoke recently with Steven Hebert, President of Bottle Crusher US, about the challenges of starting up a business during a pandemic and the successes he and his company have realized in its early days.
Hebert established Bottle Crusher “just before the virus hit,” he said. “I had just gotten notice that our first machines arrived. With the pandemic it’s been quite a challenge but we have been well received by the marketplace.”
The recycling of glass presents unique challenges to many communities, especially given the expense of transporting such heavy materials over distances; as Hebert noted, “Trucking is what kills the profit, as a result, glass is often sent to landfills. It can represent 20% by weight of trash from communities that have ended or suspended the recycling of glass.” Hebert said.
“Each year only one-third of the roughly 10 million metric tons of glass that Americans throw away is recycled,” Chemical & Engineering News reported in 2019. Solutions to the problem of landfilled glass require an all-hands-on deck approach, and the products distributed by Bottle Crusher US provide one: the crushing of glass bottles into sand and other construction and infrastructure materials.
Given the gravity of the glass recycling problem, it’s not surprising to learn that the field occupied by Bottle Crusher US and other companies has become increasingly competitive. However, “We’re totally different because a majority of our competitors are based on a much larger footprint, and that’s where the problem is,” Hebert said. “If you spend $5 million (on a machine) to recycle glass you have to have a large region, you have to truck the glass in and truck the sand out. With ours, a good-sized two-ton operation installed is $50,000.”
“Our smallest unit does 600 pounds per hour,” he continued. “It’s a good place to start and get involved, and grow from there. We have a group down in New Orleans we’ve been working with. It’s three kids from Tulane and right now they’re picking up 10,000 pounds of glass three times a week.”
“Every single beer glass and wine bottle that is used in the city will exist forever in a landfill a couple hundred miles from here, and simultaneously we're losing so much land every single minute due to coastal erosion," Tulane student Max Steitz said. "If we could set up this symbiotic system that works well to solve these problems, it could do some real good for the city."
Hebert said, “We’re working with professors and different labs and coming up with formulas for topsoil, sandblasting, and concrete: there are all kinds of uses. The Tulane kids did one TV spot, which got six million hits. We’re getting a lot of interest from colleges, restaurants, bars, hotels, wineries, high rise office and residential buildings, and community groups as well.”
The involvement of Hebert and his company with NERC began with its sponsorship of NERC’s Glass Forum in September. “The contacts are the hard part, and our meeting through the Forum was invaluable to us,” he said. “We’re setting up a forum so that users of our products can talk to each other and share information.”
Hebert also noted the benefits of becoming and Advisory Member. “The exposure that we’ve received and the availability and access to influential contacts have been a real positive boost to our business.” NERC welcomes Bottle Crusher US to its growing roster of Advisory Member, and looks forward to ongoing collaborations to help solve the problems associated with recycling glass.