Idaho Artist Finds Niche Business in Glass Recycling

Apr 25, 2012

SANDPOINT, Idaho - A fledgling business in Sandpoint, Idaho is giving locals a place to finally take their glass bottles – besides the landfill, that is. North Idaho is one of the few corners of the Northwest that doesn’t have glass recycling. As Jessica Robinson reports, the business is barely up and running, and already has more glass bottles than it can handle.

Terra Cressey is surrounded by garbage bins piled high with glass bottles. This is the headquarters of Glass Roots Recycling. And before it opened a few months ago, Cressey says likely all these bottles would have gone to the county dump.

“You know, I’ve had people like, ‘I can finally have my favorite dressing again, I can finally drink my favorite beer again’ because I can finally not feel guilty about the glass'," Cressey says.

Like in most counties in north Idaho, the local recycler doesn’t accept glass. Glass is heavy, and diesel is expensive, so it’s not worth the shipping cost. So Cressey is smashing up the bottles … and turning them into this …

Buckets of colorful pebbles and sand-like grains of glass.

“And it’s all soft, you can touch it, you can play with it, it’s been tumbled, it’s been beach-glassed," Cressey says. 

Beer bottles become a chocolaty brown aggregate, Champaign bottles a vibrant green. Red wine bottles turn jade-like and white wine bottles bright yellow.

“Everyone kind of giggles, cuz I seem to know my wine bottles now," laughs Cressey.

The rarest color? Blue.  She says Bud Light has just released a blue bottle that will help 'tremendously'. 

Thirty-seven-year-old Cressey originally envisioned a small operation that would create glass fragments for local artists at a couple of bucks a pound. But so far, the biggest orders are coming from landscapers and contractors who want to use the glass in patios, countertops, and as a substitute for sand – and they want a lot of it. Which has given her a new problem.

"For the most part, I don’t have enough. I know it’s kind of wild -- I’m trying not to sell my product to everybody that wants it," Cressey says.

Cressey is on the move though. She’s transferring to a bigger warehouse and eventually hopes to hire workers, besides herself. After all, with no where else for the bottles to go, she tells me she has a lot of glass to break.

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network