Students Launch Recycling Program To Turn City’s Glass Into Sand

They plan to start a citywide recycling service that also helps restore the nearby coastline - and you can help!

If there's one thing New Orleans has a lot of, it's empty beer bottles (wine and liquor bottles, too!).

That's why a group of three college students at Tulane University in Louisiana have decided to start a glass recycling program in the city. And, not only do they want to recycle the glass, they want to use it to create sand that can be used to help fight erosion in flood-prone areas of the state.

The three young environmentalists, Max Landy, Max Steitz and Franziska Trautmann, have been defending the planet from climate change since 2018 when they started Plant the Peace, a startup that rewards online gamers by planting trees around the world.

With the coastal areas of Louisiana being threatened by further erosion from flooding and hurricanes, the trio came up with the idea of building a mobile, glass-pulverizing machine that turns glass into sand. The machine attaches to a trailer, so they can tow it to various bars and night spots in New Orleans and pick up glass to feed their machine on-the-go.

The machine, which aids in the process of converting the glass to sand, can crush a beer bottle in 1 to 2 seconds.

"We thought, we have two huge problems, one of which is that 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," Steitz explained to NOLA.com. "If we could set up this symbiotic system that works well to solve these problems, it could do some real good for the city."

The students started a GoFundMe to raise money for their project. Originally, they were hoping to raise $9,000 to fund 20 sites around the city where residents can drop off recyclable glass. They've also partnered with local businesses that will house and store large recycling bins.

Max Landy/Facebook

Once they create the sand, they plan to sell it at a below-market rate to help protect and restore the Louisiana shoreline, which they say is losing a football field of sand every hour.

Now that the fundraiser has reached over $12K, the group says they're expanding the project to provide a sustainable glass recycling program to the entire city of New Orleans. The funds raised will go to buying equipment, paying for workers and renting out a warehouse to hold the hundreds of thousands of glass bottles they expect to collect.

The students are joining a trend of young environmentalists who are finding new ways to act and adapt to climate change, even when their elected officials won't.

"We discovered a need in New Orleans that wasn't being fulfilled by the government," Steitz said. "We thought, OK, let's take action. This is our city and ultimately it's up to us. We're college students and this is our planet; let's jump into action and make things happen."

How can you start something good?

Inspired by the students' incredible effort to help the planet? You can contribute to the project's GoFundMe by clicking here.

You may not have the time or know-how to build a machine to crush glass and turn it into sand, but you can help with recycling efforts in your community by bringing your glass to a drop off location.

Google "glass drop off near me" to find the location nearest you. Just be sure to carefully follow the instructions at the drop off site so you don't contaminate other recyclables.

Let's #StartSomethingGood together.

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