Glass bottles can take over 4,000 years to decompose, so it’s a good thing that over 3 million tons of them are recycled each year in the U.S. An estimated 90% of recycled glass bottles are made into new containers, but many pieces are winding up in the hands of artists and designers looking to make unique, environmentally friendly glasses, dishes, and jewelry, along with light fixtures and other home furnishings. Pieces can run the gamut from kitschy liquor bottle lamps and subtle glasses made from wine bottles to classic earrings and pricey sinks.
Many artists and designers are drawn to recycled glass as a way to create eco-friendly glassware. BottleHood, a San Diego-based company, produces recycled glassware using beer, liquor, wine, and soda bottles from restaurants and other area businesses. While beer fans can track down glasses made from their favorite stout or IPA, BottleHood’s best work comes in the form of elegant vases and subtle wall sconces made from “upcycled” Cointreau and Bombay Sapphire bottles. With its goblets, vases, tumblers, and pitchers, the Green Glass Company has become the world’s largest producer of reclaimed glassware, stressing the environment down to the biodegradable cornstarch “peanuts” they use to ship their pieces from Wisconsin. They even hold a patent on a “unique wine bottle to goblet conversion process” used to turn reclaimed objects like reclaimed Bordeaux bottles into sets of frosted goblets.
Laura Bergman, a self-described reclaim artist, lives in Pennsylvania’s Amish Country, where she often explored the area’s dumps and woodlands for antique bottles to add to her collection. “One thing that has always bothered me though, is how collectors take the valuable whole bottles and glass pieces, but leave the broken glass behind for the environment and the wildlife to deal with,” she notes on her website. She started Bottled Up Designs in 2008, using broken antique glass pieces to produce eco-friendly jewelry imbued with a sense of history. She cuts whiskey bottles, depression glass, ceramic dishware, and everything else she finds into pendants and earrings, while fusing leftover scraps into beautiful clusters, such as mixed blue earrings made with Mason jars and Noxema and Milk of Magnesia bottles.
Bergman’s clusters find a kindred spirit in Adeline Rem’s and Lauren Becker’s bowls. Rem started ARTSYer in 2008 to sell her one-of-a-kind bowls made from donated or abandoned glass. Many pieces are made from panes of clear tempered glass, once used as window panes or shower doors, that would have wound up in Austin’s dumps. Becker owns Recycled Glassworks, which she started in 1996 to “upcycle” window panes into patterned bowls, plates, and platters. “Bottle glass has an established recycling infrastructure,” she notes on her website. “Plate glass, however, ends up in landfill, unless it gets upcycled into a second life.”
Reclaimed glass can be easily integrated into the home as a wall sconce, chandelier, or sink. Hudson Goods sells furniture made from recycled wood, metal, and glass, including handblown demijohns originally used for brewing and chandelier lighting made from recycled glass bottles. Bear Creek Glass, a partnership between three glass artists, offers a wide range of handmade glass sinks worthy of display in a gallery, each made from 100% or partially recycled glass.