Broken Arrow Glass uses creativity to fix glass recycling system

Find out how Broken Arrow Glass uses creativity to fix New Mexico’s glass recycling system

Broken Arrow Glass in Santa Fe turns recycled glass into artistic home goods and decorative landscaping, and also aims to help fix the state’s recycling system. (Courtesy of Shelby Kaye)

bright spotBroken Arrow Glass undoubtedly exemplifies turning one’s trash into another’s treasure – complemented by an important mission.

The recycling center based in Santa Fe accepts glass donations and also has a doorstep collection service. It then takes the used glass and transforms it into functional art.

Owner Shelby Kaye, who holds a bachelor’s in fine art from New York University, said all products are made by hand. After repurposing glass products at home, Kaye got the idea to provide an innovative outlet for recycling in the community.

“When the pandemic hit, we realized you couldn’t even take your glass recycling to a drop-off facility, so everybody was throwing their glass away and just putting it in the trash can,” she said. “So I got this idea … if we can upcycle our own glass recycling that we’re producing, that we’re actually drinking in our house, then maybe we could do this large-scale.”

Broken Arrow Glass turns used glass into drinking glasses and dinnerware, jars, vases, candles, bells, light catchers and even terrazzo. After the home goods are made, the center turns the excess material into sheet glass. It also uses finely crushed glass to create decorative landscaping.

The process is complex. An object is first scored and torched to pop off the top. The jagged rim is then grinded before being placed in a kiln. Kaye said they take the object out while it’s hot and fire-polish the lip and return it to the kiln where it’s kneeled.

“Everything feels like it was a new-made glass, so it’s really labor intensive,” she said.

Kaye said Broken Arrow Glass currently collects and processes about nine tons of glass a month, which includes the upcycle of about 200-250 bottles.

“What we’re trying to do is create closed-loop systems for waste,” she said, “It is a totally new concept that we have created.”

As an example, Kaye explained that she works with HoneyMoon Brewery in Santa Fe to upcycle its drinking glasses. She picks up the glass recycling from the establishment, repurposes the bottles into glasses at her facility, and then returns them to the brewery where they are used to serve beverages.

“There’s something just really easy and iconic about it, and it’s so simple because there is no new bottle manufacturer here,” Kaye said.

The company’s mission goes beyond art, however, for Kaye believes the state’s recycling system in general is “complicated and hard and broken.”

“In northern New Mexico, I am the only one processing glass recycling,” Kaye said. “And part of the reason the state doesn’t process the material anymore is because there’s no outlet for it once it’s been processed.”

She added that New Mexico ships out small percentages of their recycling to neighboring states that have the necessary machinery and outlets.

The downfall is that recyclable glass ends up in landfills. Kaye believes with the support of the community, along with updated and larger machinery, she can help the state process materials more effectively and beneficially to the environment and New Mexico.

Kaye plans to take bigger steps to meeting her goals in 2023, focusing more on the landscaping art side of the business. In addition, she is applying for a grant from Los Alamos National Laboratories that helps private businesses test prototype materials, and Kaye already has her cause in mind.

“I’m interested in … trying to get this sand and crushed material tested and approved for New Mexico so that we can use it locally for flood diversion and erosion control,” she said. “If we can get it approved to use for erosion control here in our state, then nobody needs to ship this material out anymore.”

Broken Arrow Glass not only creates beautiful, functional art, it challenges the community to help fix the state’s recycling system and make a major impact through an alternative solution.

Home » Bright Spot » Find out how Broken Arrow Glass uses creativity to fix New Mexico’s glass recycling system

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