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The Flower Show

PHS Pop Up Gardens Partner with Bottle Underground to Upcycle Nearly 2 Tons of Glass

January 02, 2024

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PHS Pop Up Garden South Street

By Melissa O'Brien

Bottle Underground, a community-based glass recycling program that emerged in 2020, seeks to reduce glass waste and support individuals to reclaim their livelihoods. In a recent interview with Bottle Underground's co-founder, Danielle Ruttenberg, we learned more about the mission, operations, and impact of this unique Philadelphia-based organization and how they are collaborating with the PHS Pop Up Gardens to upcycle used glass product. 

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Bottle Underground is a community-based glass recycling program dedicated to reducing glass waste.

Bottle Underground's Mission and Origins 

Bottle Underground's journey began with the success of Remark Glass, a creative business specializing in upcycling through hot glass blowing. Recognizing the potential for a more significant impact on recycling and workforce development, Bottle Underground was born. The co-founder, Danielle, shared insights into the firm's circular business model, emphasizing the synergy between recycling efforts, local business opportunities, and workforce development. She says, “We saw a need to make a bigger impact with the recycling efforts that we had going on, and a real opportunity for workforce development and making sure that we were employing people in our community and people who have barriers to work here in Philadelphia.” 

The heart of Bottle Underground's mission lies in recirculating glass, diverting it from traditional recycling methods. Danielle shed light on the diverse end markets for the glass they collect, including recirculation by reusing sanitized jars for small businesses, and downcycling surplus glass into sand for various projects, such as green stormwater infrastructure and agriculture. This holistic approach showcases the versatility of glass as a material with multiple value streams. 

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In 2023, close to 4,000 pounds of glass was collected by Bottle Underground from the PHS Pop Up Garden at South Street and diverted from the landfill.

Partnership with PHS Pop Up Gardens 

Bottle Underground's partnership with the PHS Pop Up Gardens developed organically as part of their glass collection services for local businesses, bars, and restaurants. This past season, close to 4,000 pounds of glass was collected by Bottle Underground from the PHS Pop Up Garden at South Street and diverted from the landfill. 

Bottle Underground's innovative e-bike service caught our attention as an eco-friendly approach to glass collection. Danielle explained the logistics behind dispatching e-bikes for local pickups, showcasing the commitment to minimizing waste and creating a sustainable solution. The process involves utilizing e-bikes equipped with a cab that can carry up to 200 pounds of glass, contributing to a low-waste collection system. 

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Bottle Underground generates positive value by repurposing glass, turning what would be a disposal cost into revenue and employment opportunities.

Impact on the Community and Job Creation 

Beyond the environmental impact, Bottle Underground focuses on creating jobs within the community. Approximately one-third of their staff faces barriers to employment, showcasing the organization's commitment to social sustainability. Danielle emphasized the positive value generated through repurposing glass, turning what would be a disposal cost into revenue and creating employment opportunities. She says, “I think that every time people start to opt for these different solutions, it gives opportunity -- whether it's through plastics or through other materials, especially glass -- for a job for somebody who really needs it.” 

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Anyone can donate glass, volunteer, or participate in residential pickup services with Bottle Underground.

Looking Ahead and Getting Involved 

Looking ahead, Bottle Underground plans to continue working with the PHS Pop Up Gardens to upcycle glass each season. Danielle also encouraged locals to donate, volunteer, bring glass to their facility, or participate in residential pickup services, all accessible through their website and social media channels

As Bottle Underground continues to carve a path toward sustainable solutions, their commitment to waste reduction and community development stands as an inspiring example of how small initiatives can lead to significant positive change. 

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