How to make a difference, one step at a time

How to reduce waste: Grassroots Glass Recycling

BackYard Sapphire t-shirts, coozies and glass mulch
Sustaining outfits like BackYard Sapphire is a great way to build a sustainable Lafayette Photo by Marie Elizabeth Oliver

Tina Crapsi has been collecting Baileys and Grand Marnier bottles with a vision for a “seasonal blend” of her signature mulch, just in time for Halloween. The black-and-orange glass, tumbled as smooth as marble, are some of BackYard Sapphire’s latest sustainable merchandise.

Crapsi and her partner Dawn Vincent started BackYard Sapphire during the pandemic, as an answer to Lafayette’s lack of glass recycling—and to combat their lockdown boredom. Collecting glass gave them an opportunity to connect with like minded people, and help solve a problem that has frustrated Lafayette citizens since 2016 when the city renegotiated its recycling contract.

“People always have stories about how they don’t want to throw glass,” says Vincent. “When we started, we were getting people’s hoards. Several times we had many boxes appear like they were in a barn for years and years, and they were like, ‘finally someone’s taking them.’”

Vincent estimates they are currently collecting about 1,500 pounds of glass a week and are on track to recycle 40 tons by the end of 2022. The growing demand has launched BackYard Sapphire from their (literal) backyard to an industrial warehouse in Scott. 

Inside their workshop, Crapsi uses a large mechanical agitator that transforms thick, colorful bottles into glass mulch, sold at places like Koi and Pack & Paddle. The other glass they collect is grinded manually and sifted into a fine sand.  

“We kill ourselves trying to make the recycling cost as low as possible, but it’s very expensive,” says Crapsi. “Right now, we put a small nick in the waste of Lafayette. But we could probably put a dent in it.”

To make that dent, they need funding to support their growing recycling operation and demand for curbside collection. Crapsi and Vincent are trying to get more local businesses to pay for their recycling services. Recently, BackYard Sapphire partnered with Lafayette-based startup, RoadRunnerApp, to outsource its pickup. It maintains a drop off location at the Fightinville Fresh Farmers’ Market on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Dropping off your glass, or paying a convenience fee for a curbside pickup, requires much less effort than grinding or smashing it to smithereen. Although Crapsi and Vincent say anyone can do it, and there’s plenty of glass to go around.

“It’s clear that people want to recycle and not everybody can just pick up and make a company to do it,” says Crapsi. 

Vincent says Lafayette Consolidated Government’s recycling program is interested in their efforts, and has become a partner in sandbag recycling. However, she doesn’t anticipate LCG’s curbside glass recycling returning anytime soon. To continue to fill in the gaps, BackYard Sapphire is looking to create new revenue streams. That’s one reason Crapsi and Vincent are pushing the company’s brand new merch (t-shirts and Koozies) and seasonal mulch blends. They’re planning blue and white for Christmas.

“We’re always so thankful for the support,” says Crapsi. “The more we get, the bigger we can get. Every single time we’re able to crank it up a notch, we really do.”