Drink locally, ship globally.
Drink locally, ship globally.
That's the objective of Dan Weisenbach, who takes empty beer, wine and liquor bottles from local bars and turns them into plaques and trophies for businesses and individuals across the United States and, at times, the world.
"We've always had an environmental bent to things," said Weisenbach, the owner of Weisenbach Recycled Products on the Near East Side of Columbus. "Of course it wasn't as big of an issue as it is now with the rest of the planet."
The idea to use discarded alcohol bottles was launched unintentionally. Weisenbach was an attendee of the local chapter of Green Drinks, an international environmental networking group and social mixer that met regularly at the Surly Girl Saloon in the Short North. Weisenbach said he noticed the incredible amount of waste in the Short North that was not easily recycled, largely because of the cost to bars and restaurants.
So, he offered to pick up the jettisoned stock from about five establishments in the downtown area. Last January, he started processing his merchandise with the locally collected bottles.
The timing couldn't have been better. His company, founded in 1981 as a specialty printer, produced glass awards for about 10 years. He got the material from a processor in southern Ohio, which had to temporarily shut down its furnace. Eventually, the processor would no longer be able to supply Weisenbach with glass. So, he quickly partnered with local glass artist Daniel Schreiber, whose facility is about a five-minute drive.
"I wasn't about to discontinue an item that had become a signature product for us," he said of the ReAward line of personalized recognition awards.
About once a week, someone from the company goes around to the local taverns and collects the refuse, roughly 1 ton per month. After the bottles are crushed, the material is taken to the nearby blowing facility, where it is melted down at 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit. From there, it is either sculpted by a glass artist or cast in a mold. The finishing touches are sandblast-etched, not chemically etched, at Weisenbach's facility.
He said he wishes he could collect more bottles, but he is at his limit.
"The challenge for us is in selling that final product," he said. "Certainly there's no shortage of available glass, so our challenge is to create enough market demand so we can create more."
His efforts earned him an award from SWACO, which honored Weisenbach and other green innovators at the recent fifth annual central Ohio Emerald Awards.
"It is very rewarding to see Dan succeed with his business," said Ron Mills, executive director of the waste authority. "The fact that he finds new uses for a very hard product to recycle, local glass, is very exciting. Dan's ingenuity is a great example of what we talk about all the time at SWACO: Our waste stream is full of resources waiting to be discovered."
Weisenbach, who took home the "entrepreneur" award, encouraged people to be aware of environmentally friendly goods. "Recycling is great and a noble thing and something we highly praise, but the key is to get people to buy products that are made from recycled material," he said.