Glass grinder going global
In the first of a series featuring entrants for the 2013 Marlborough Environmental Awards, Kat Pickford talks to the designer of a machine that reduces glass bottle waste by one tenth.
Demand is growing around the world for a glass bottle crushing machine invented in Marlborough.
Fairhall father and son team Tim and Geoff Barnett are behind the innovative compact machine that crushes glass containers into a fine grade sand.
Since developing the machine in 2010, the pair have sold about 400 machines around the world under the brand Expleco.
Tim, who designed the machine, and his son Geoff, who travels the world selling it, are excited about the United States market.
They are working on a pilot programme to supply the machines to 50 hotels on the same block in New York City, and another deal to supply 40 bars in a Texas football stadium.
Mr Barnett said businesses in many other countries were a lot more motivated to try eco-friendly solutions, because the burden was placed on the generator of the waste problem, rather than being subsidised by government.
"A lot of places around the world are embracing environmentally sound options - Melbourne, New York, they were easy to get into."
Mr Barnett, a naval designer, began making small glass crushers for boats several years ago, and saw a gap in the market for a commercial-grade crusher for the hospitality industry.
Waste minimisation was a good option in a small market such as New Zealand where the transport costs outweighed the financial benefits of transporting it to recycling plants in main centres or overseas.
New Zealand businesses had bought about 300 machines, which was lower than expected, but probably because of the muted economic conditions of the past few years, he said.
The real growth has been overseas, and export markets include island resorts in the South Pacific, the Carribean and the Maldives.
The machine is the size of a green wheelie bin and crushes glass bottles down to a tenth of the size, creating a fine coloured sand, with no sharp edges.
Geoff, a former Marlborough Boys' College student and Otago University marketing graduate, travels selling the machines.
A host of uses for the sand have been explored including tile making, sports turf and sand blasting or it can be mixed with cement to make concrete.
The pair have also developed a second machine which smashes the bottles into pieces of glass. This machine is aimed at businesses in large metropolitan areas, with a bottle manufacturing plant and benefication plant - which prepares the glass for recycling - nearby.
The winners of the 2013 Marlborough Environment Awards will be announced on March 1 at the awards dinner at the Marlborough Convention Centre. Tickets cost $60 including dinner. For more information contact Nicky Eade: 520 7400 or marlborough.govt.nz
The Marlborough Express