The sound of glass shattering as it was thrown into recycling trucks is a distant memory for most Johnson Countians. Curbside glass recycling went away for most residents in the early 2000s.
Now, a decade and a half later, curbside glass recycling is slowly making a comeback, thanks to small startups by entrepreneurs in Westwood and Overland Park.
Mission Woods this month began a three-month trial of a curbside glass pickup by GlassBandit, a business owned by Jamie Arnold of Westwood. The trial will cost the city $400 a month for its 82 households, said Mayor Robert Tietze. At the end of the trial period, the city and Arnold will assess whether there was enough interest to continue the service.
Tietze thinks his city will be the first in northeast Johnson County to bring back citywide glass recycling service. The city contracts with Deffenbaugh Industries for other types of recycling.
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Deffenbaugh used to take glass on its recycling runs, but stopped in 2003 because a weak market and worker injuries made it too costly to continue.
For a long time, the only alternative for residents was to pack up the glass and take it to one of big purple recycling bins owned by Ripple Glass of Kansas City for eventual processing into fiberglass insulation or beer bottles. But recycling proponents said that option was so inconvenient that a lot of glass was thrown into the garbage instead.
Cue the entrepreneurs.
Arnold has been cultivating a base of about 100 subscribers in Westwood, Westwood Hills, Fairway and Leawood since starting the business in July. Mission Woods will be his first contract with a city.
Like GlassBandit’s other subscribers, Mission Woods residents get an 18-gallon bin for their empty glass containers. It is picked up at the ends of driveways every other weekend.
For Arnold that means making the rounds himself with his trailer and the help of his wife, Grace.
He doesn’t sell the glass, though. Instead he takes it to Ripple Glass. His profit comes from the fee he charges people who don’t want to have to take their glass to the Ripple drop-off sites themselves, he said. “I have yet to make a dollar off the glass itself.”
Arnold saw the need for curbside glass pickup after he moved to Johnson County from Cleveland four or five years ago and was surprised to find no curbside glass recycling here. At the time he was unaware of the Ripple bins, but cringed to think of throwing glass away when it could be recycled.
“I wouldn’t say I am more environmental than anyone else,” said Arnold, 27. He just saw a need.
GlassBandit is the first business for Arnold, who is studying for a master’s of business administration at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He also has a full-time job in the consumer credit card department of a local bank.
Tietze said Arnold’s service will fill in the final curbside recycling component for the city and perhaps encourage more residents to recycle glass.
“If we can get them just to take it to the end of the driveway, maybe that will be a start,” he said.
In the meantime, it’s nice to be able to help out a small business start-up, he said. “I admire their entrepreneurial spirit.”
GlassBandit is not the first local company to capitalize on the convenience of glass pick-up.
Atlas Glass, based in Westwood, has a similar business model and has been around since 2012.
Atlas is basically a one-person company with around 300 subscribers mostly in the Brookside area, said its owner, Damon Wittenborn. Atlas also serves some businesses and restaurants in Westport, he said.
Wittenborn, who also works as a remodeler, said he thinks his company was the first in the county to offer the pickup service. Business has been growing quickly, he said. “The main reason is people are tired of taking their own glass. It’s a dirty and messy job and then it starts to pile up.”
KC Curbside Glass of Overland Park may be the largest of the Johnson County-based companies. It has grown to more than 1,000 subscribers since starting in February 2013, said its owner, Hunt Magee. The service area includes Gardner, Leawood, Olathe and Overland Park and recently expanded to bring in Shawnee and Lenexa, he said.
KC Curbside has no city contracts, but does serve homeowners associations in several cities, he said. So far it’s been a one-person, full-time job, with a little help for bookkeeping, said Magee. But business has been expanding enough that he said he may have to hire more help.
“It’s been an exciting two years,” he said.