Granite recyclers turn scraps into treasures while saving the environment

2014-05-06T00:00:00Z Granite recyclers turn scraps into treasures while saving the environmentBy Angela Pittenger Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Joshua and Julie Olauson have always considered themselves conservationists.

Now they’re capitalizing on that passion, with a new company that makes tiles and other products from granite scraps that would otherwise add to local landfills.

By collecting scraps from local granite countertop fabricators, A&E Recycled Granite has already diverted 40 tons of waste from the Tucson landfill and processed it into the various granite products it offers for sale, said Joshua Olauson, co-owner of the company with his wife, Julie.

The new company, a licensee of an Indiana company that developed the concept, introduced itself to the Tucson market in a soft opening at SAHBA’s spring home show in March. It is located at 1660 S. Research Loop, Suite 110.

A&E Recycled Granite’s concept is to create 100 percent recycled granite tiles, fire pits, pavers and various other products from scraps that would otherwise be dumped into the landfill. And the company uses everything — including the dust.

“Recycling creates dust,” said Julie Olauson, co-owner. “And we use that for sand material between the pavers. What was 100 percent waste is 99.99 percent used in our product.”

When the couple heard of an Indiana company making recycled granite tiles and paving stones, they decided to try the product first and installed it on their own fireplace.

“We fell in love with how gorgeous the stone is,” Julie said. “When we saw it, we decided we wanted to do it, and nobody had started to recycle granite here.”

Originally from Tucson, the Olausons were living in California at the time but decided to move back to start the family business.

“We thought this would be the opportunity to come back to Tucson,” Julie said. “We were excited that Tucson had a positive, green environment and it seemed so perfect.”

Through a $75,000 licensing arrangement, the Olausons got equipment, training and advice from Recycled Granite, based in Schererville, Ind.

Recycled Granite was founded in 2009 by Julie Rizzo, who as a granite-countertop consultant was inspired to find a way to keep millions of tons of granite from being thrown into landfills. Since its inception, 35 affliated facilities have opened across the U.S.

“We license the business model across the country,” Rizzo said. “We are zero-waste facilities. It’s amazing how you can create jobs out of waste.”

Once the Olausons purchased their license and found a facility, they started collecting scraps before their equipment had even arrived.

Granite Kitchen & Bath Countertops, 5300 N. Casa Grande Highway, was the first company to agree to give its scraps to A&E for recycling. The company’s owner, Mike Schiffler, said he had heard of the process in trade magazines, but hadn’t heard of anybody doing it in Tucson, so he was immediately interested. He made an agreement with the Olausons — Schiffler would give his scraps to them for free if they’d come and haul it away.

“What’s happening is instead of us bringing material to the landfill, it’s going to be repurposed into other products, so it’s a win-win,” Schiffler said. “It helps make them money and saves me money since I don’t have to pay to dump it.”

Schiffler said the partnership saves him about $100 a week, if he adds production time, gas, labor and the landfill fee. He estimates he’s given A&E about 15 tons of scraps to date.

The fact that A&E’s products are recycled does not mean they are expensive, Julie said. “People automatically think, when they hear recycling, it’s at a higher price point, but it’s right at about the same as what you’d find at Lowe’s or Home Depot. We have blends of tiles that start as low as $6.50 per square foot.”

A&E Recycled Granite accepts scrap donations from businesses, as well as do-it-yourselfers. It can process all types of granite, except for the kind that’s backed with plywood. Remodelers can either drop off their scraps or call to arrange for a pick up.

“When I think of how much is being dumped in the landfill and how gorgeous the product is, it’s kind of sad,” Julie said.

Contact reporter Angela Pittenger at 573-4137 or apitteng@azstarnet.com. Follow her on Twitter @CentsibleMama or on Facebook at facebook.com/centsiblemama.

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