Today’s Solutions: April 21, 2024

There is seemingly no end to the variety and ingenuity scientists and researchers have when it comes to recycling. They have taken plastic waste and treated it to absorb CO2. They have taken human waste and turned it into viable renewable energy. 

Louisiana startup Glass Half Full is turning recycled glass into usable sand. The Optimist Daily wrote about this grassroots organization in 2019, and we’re happy to report that they’re still going strong.

Starting with one “bottle of wine”

As they say in their vision, the founders of Glass Half Full were enjoying a bottle of wine one night when they came up with their idea to address Louisiana’s diminishing coastline and its climate flood and storm resiliency while involving the community in recycling. 

Glass Half Full takes collected and salvaged glass and turns it into sand. Glass collected from community members or taken from landfills is sorted, sifted, and then converted into very soft and pure sand. They then take this new sand and put it to use for disaster relief efforts, eco-construction, new glass products, and more. This is much needed as the global supply of sand is actually quite scarce. 

The project is particularly meant to help Louisiana communities, who drop off donated bottles and receive free bags of sand in times of emergency, making the community agents and beneficiaries of circular recycling. 

“We’re constantly trying to get input from the community on things that they want to see. For example, our sandbag program for hurricanes, we often give away sandbags when a storm is approaching for those who need them. And we also do a lot of volunteer programs having to do with disaster relief or recycling,” said co-founder Franziska Trautmann to Tulane News. 

Saving the coastline with glass?

Glass Half Full doesn’t just react to immediate climate concerns. With over 2.2 million pounds of glass collected over the years, Glass Half Full is working with experts to see if they can’t do something about coastal erosion with their sand. Louisiana is currently losing one football field coastline every 100 minutes, and Trautmann and Glass Half Full want to do what they can to stop this. 

“We were able to partner with some of my old professors in the [Tulane University] chemical engineering department, as well as Tulane professors in coastal and river engineering, ecology, biology, a ton of different experts in their fields…so asking the main question of ‘can we actually do this?’ and ‘what’s actually in the sand?’ and ‘is it safe to put in the environment?’ All of that is going really well,” she said.

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