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Councilman converts glass bottles into sand — hopes city follows suit

Councilman converts glass bottles into sand — hopes city follows suit

Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik has a simple request for businesses along Fourth Avenue and University Boulevard right before New Year’s Eve: He wants your glass bottles.

Kozachik has been spending his free time during the holidays in the garage of his Ward 6 office with his new toy — a glass crusher, a machine that turns bottles into a sand-like material.

He hopes the city can eventually use the material to fill sandbags to mitigate flooding during monsoon storms, as an asphalt substitute for cement for sidewalks, or to line trenches when contractors lay down pipe.

“What I’m doing back in the garage is really, really retail scale to show the environmental services people that you can scale this up and we can do this on a commercial level,” he said. “We can create our own secondary market and maybe even make a few bucks.”

The idea behind the project came a few months back from one of Kozachik’s constituents, Val Little. The West University neighborhood resident had been listening in on city council meetings in the fall, when the city was looking to cut costs to its recycling program, and eyed eliminating the recycling of certain items. That included glass, which the city spends $500,000 on annually to process.

Little, a self-described avid traveler, took from her experiences to come up with a solution. She learned of the existence of a booming global sand industry that has depleted river and ocean sand supplies due to dredging in Asia.

She coupled that with glass recycling initiatives in other countries, such as New Zealand and Australia, where the sand-like material was being used for road construction.

She pitched the idea to Kozachik, who she said “got right on it.”

“If we want to be sustainable, we need to be sustainable,” Little said.

Kozachik specifically perused the internet in search of his own glass crusher. He got the go-ahead from city manager Mike Ortega, who agreed to pay $6,000 to purchase the item and use it for the “pilot program.”

“It’s a great way to pilot a possible local alternative to recycle a commodity at a low-cost,” Ortega said through a spokesman, adding that if it’s successful, they would “possibly be able to take it to a macro-level.”

The glass crusher arrived on Monday at Kozachik’s office from New Zealand. The first bottles were collected by Little from Time Market. Kozachik has been feeding the bottles into the top of the machine, where they’re instantly converted into sand and filled into 5-gallon buckets.

The only piece missing for Kozachik’s experiment? More bottles.

“I reached out to a couple other places on Fourth Avenue and you know, I bet you every bar on Fourth Avenue would like to supply us with bottles,” he said.

Contact reporter Justin Sayers at jsayers1@tucson.com or 573-4192. Twitter: @_JustinSayers.

Facebook: JustinSSayers.

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