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Students Launch Glass Recycling Program To Turn New Orleans’ Many Empty Bottles Into Erosion-Fighting Sand

Three students from Tulane University have made it their mission to address the problem of landfills and coastal erosion simultaneously by taking a novel approach: They want to turn the millions of empty beer bottles that New Orleans produces into sand.

The three students, Max Landy, Max Steitz and Franziska Trautmann,  are no strangers to environmental activism, having previously founded the innovative startup Plant The Peace that gets people to raise money for planting trees by playing online games.

Now they’ve turned their attention to launching a new glass recycling program, city-wide, that will convert waste glass into sand that can then be used to help protect the flood-prone state from further erosion.

According to Steitz, speaking to NOLA.com:

“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. If we could set up this symbiotic system that works well to solve these problems, it could do some real good for the city.”

Max Steitz

The students have launched a GoFundMe to raise the requisite funds that has already raised some $11,000, outstripping their initial goal of $9,000. They initially planned to set up 20 drop-off sites for glass around the city in cooperation with local partners, though with a new stretch goal of $15,000 that number could presumably expand.

The bulk of the funds raised will go to buying a glass-pulverizing machine that will be rendered mobile, through the use of a trailer, which will allow these gung-ho environmentalists to recycle on the go by bringing their glass crusher to the bars and venues that make up New Orlean’s raucous (and bottle-rich) nightlife.

As Steitz told NOLA.com:

“We’ll have a workplace and a traveling glass recycling operation. We can go to bars and pick up glass and drive, while simultaneously making the sand. It’s really efficient. It crushes a bottle about every 1 to 2 seconds.”

Frankly, it sounds like an incredible idea and it’s easy to imagine revelers at New Orleans bars cheering and collecting their empties when the “sand man” arrives.

Kudos to these young innovators.

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