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Transforming Glass Waste: Bricolage Dynamics’ Vision for a Sustainable Future

Glass is one of the most recyclable materials used in packaging. In fact, the material itself is 100% recyclable, and can be recycled endlessly without a loss of quality. So, if that’s the case, then why is only one third of the glass in the US being recycled? Many recycling centers in the country don’t even accept glass, making it difficult for those who would like to recycle it. However, Zeb Parsons and the team at Bricolage Dynamics are working to change that. We got to sit down with Zeb to learn about the problems he sees with glass recycling today, and how Bricolage Dynamics is looking to take your old glass and turn it into sand.

Andrew Hurley: So, if you were to summarize the problem for people that don’t know, why is glass a problem?

Zeb Parsons: I would say one of the biggest problems is single-stream recycling, so collecting everything into one bin. You'll typically see glass being the first recyclable cut, because it breaks and it contaminates, well, it contaminates the big money makers like the metal and the cardboard. And so, it's hard to then sort out. It's rough on the sorting equipment too. You know, these recovery facilities, you know, they're not in the business of—a lot of them are private—and they're not in the business of losing money. For that, and because there is no strong, there's not been a very robust end market in a lot of locations. 

Andrew Hurley: So what makes you different from your typical, you know, material recovery facility? 

Zeb: Well, I'm hedging my bets on the United States is gonna switch. We switched to single-stream recycling back in, I wanna say, the eighties, nineties. And, I am hedging my bets that we're gonna go the way of Europe and switch to multi-stream and have everything separated. So, the reason this works for us is because, I guess, we're already doing that. You know, I think our households probably aren't consciously thinking about the fact that they're participating in multi-stream recycling, but by keeping glass separate from the household, to us being the processor, it allows us to, we don't care if the glass breaks. Our contamination rates are next to nothing. We don't have to worry about the plastic or the cardboard or the metal. So, it really kind of simplifies the supply chain. 

And it also works for us because we're vertically integrated. So, usually, in recycling, you'll have one entity that just collects and transports and then one entity that processes. And so, we do both, which, I think, kind of allows us to pivot a little faster and keep up with, kind of, the changing market conditions. 

Andrew: So you collect and you process. Can you tell us a little bit about how you collect and the different types of sources that you collect from? 

Zeb: Yeah, so, we collect from commercial customers and residential customers. You know, residential is straightforward—that's just probably mostly single family households. We do a few apartments. And then commercial could be anything from bars and restaurants to, we do recycling for—today, actually, we're picking up for the BMW Charity Pro-Am. 

Andrew: When you think about these collection points, you've got commercial and you have residential. What are the challenges for those? 

Zeb: We don't really have any challenges on that end. I think our biggest problem, like any startup, is just, kind of, a capital issue. We've never not had more demand than we can keep up with, and so it's always just a matter of getting there. And getting into manufacturing is an expensive endeavor. And so, it's always interesting. The first time we raised money, even the people we raised it through, they're like, yeah, it's kind of, you have a reverse issue. Because most people try to raise money to then find the business, go into sales, and drum it up, and then, you know, bring it all in. And for us, it's just always just trying to raise some capital to get there. So, as far as our customers go, it's just a matter of having the processing equipment and the trucks and things to be able to facilitate their recycling efforts. 

Andrew: Yeah, so, the demand is there. You have more interest than you can even accommodate for. So, that's on the collection end. So, on the processing end, can you tell us about the different types of products that you make? 

Zeb: Yeah, so initially, everything comes in, I mean, bottles, broken bottles. We have our main pulverizer, which you guys will see, and it produces a 3/8 minus glass rock. And a 1, what is it, 1/8 minus sand aggregate, which is kind of a, like, a river sand equivalent. So it's kind of, river sand, you'd have, like, small little, kind of, stones and things like that in there. So, those are our main products. 

And then we have a secondary sifter where we're doing samples at the moment to, kind of, drum up demand for more specialty sand. So, that goes all the way down to, like, a 100 micron, like, fine, white powder. And there's all sorts of stuff in between. I mean, we do, like, a small glass cullet that can be used for sandblasting, and then, we do water filtration sand. So, there's a lot of options. 

Sand is one of the world's most in-demand raw materials, and so, there's all sorts of uses people don't think sand can be utilized in that just, even in any real town or city in the United States, will have, kind of, a diverse demand for. 

Andrew: So, you're able to take glass bottles from residences and companies, pulverize it, and you're turning it into sand. Tell us about sand. Like, why is sand important? Why can't we just go to the beach and harvest our sand there? 

Zeb: Sand is, I think they say it's, it's the number 2 world's most exploited natural resource. So, people don't think about the world having a sand shortage, but the UN just published, I wanna say, toward the end of last year, that the world was about to surpass the natural replenishment rate of sand. And so, it's actually led to a black market in Asia. And it's leading to ocean sterilization, the dredging of sand—they have these huge barges that are pulling out enormous quantities of sand out of river beds that cause the banks to collapse, and then it ruins the fishing in the area. And, well, I'd say one of the biggest benefits of us—and people don't really think about it because they like to recycle, and they're just like, okay, well, my glass is out the ground, it's being reused, but one of the biggest benefits, I would say—is the fact that we are, kind of, cutting that negative part of the supply chain out. Even if just to a small degree, at the moment, and creating something that is actually doing quite a bit of environmental harm and being able to produce that locally and help subsidize that market with, with material that's, you know, got a great, you know, second life, second life to it. 

Andrew: Yeah. I'm just kind of curious—are there, out of other folks that are, you know, collecting glass, repurposing it, what makes Bricolage different?

Zeb: Well, I think one of the big things is that we're vertically integrated, like I said, so we do our own pickup and processing. Our model, kind of, our approach to the market is more 2 and a half hour radius supply chains, and instead of one big organization in the southeast, I'd like to see smaller but more prevalent supply chains. Again, just to, kind of, what is called cutting CO2 emissions. But, I mean, just to, kind of, optimize the logistics, that's something that's kind of unique about our approach. And, we're for-profit as well. So, you do have other organizations that are doing similar things, that are popping up other places, but a lot of people go into it as a nonprofit. And so, for us, you know, a scalable problem needs a scalable solution, and I personally feel the best way to tackle it is through profitability and bringing on the right partners and things like that. In my opinion, it's very hard to count on a large workforce of volunteers and grant funding and having to write constantly to try and find money out of these grant pools. I didn't really wanna live that way, and so, I decided that we were gonna go and make it work and make some money at the same time. 

Andrew: Another question is on the collection side. . . I mean, you're collecting all types of glass and all types of interesting things, working, you know, for all different types of companies as well. Do you ever find anything interesting in the things that you collect?

Zeb: Yeah. We do find, we do find interesting things. We find old glass from time to time, usually from just random households; it's never like somebody calls. I don't understand why people get rid of it because it's just, I don't know, some really interesting old medicine bottles and Pepsi bottles, Coke bottles, things like that. And then we get quite a bit of crystal as well, Pyrex, some really beautiful Waterford pieces, Polish crystal. And so, that kind of stuff, we try to separate out and make sure that—you know, eventually, I think we're gonna start selling that separately down the road—but, give that a separate life because I don't really have the heart to break it. 

I never thought I would end up in glass recycling personally. It's interesting, kind of, the way the world, the world takes you sometimes—you know, best made plans. So, yeah, it's interesting. You know, I, at one point thought I was going to be in the corporate world forever and ever, and, you know, not working out of my basement for a number of years. But it's interesting what you kinda, you know, find along the way and say yes to different opportunities, what can kinda happen down the road.

We’d like to thank Zeb and the team at Bricolage Dynamics for taking the time to speak with us! If you’d like to learn more about the work they are doing or if you live in the greater Greenville, South Carolina area and are interested in signing up for their recycling services, check them out online at

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