Genius in a bottle
Karen Youso, Star Tribune
"Glass, china and reputation are easily cracked, and never mended well," Benjamin Franklin once said. But glass, at least, can be recycled.
Glass is made from sand, limestone and soda ash. Using recycled bottles to make new bottles requires much less electricity and natural gas than starting anew and reduces air and water pollution.
It can take a million years for a glass bottle to break down in a landfill. Recycling glass, however, can be done endlessly, and it's a gift to the environment every time.
From an overhead opening, a lava-like molten stream oozes forth. Large metal scissors, like garden shears, reach out and ... snap, snap, snap! The golden ribbon is cut into gobs. In quick succession the gobs fall through the air, landing in a funnel that shoots them, instantly and precisely, to the left, the right, the center; left, right, center. Streaks of light are captured and flipped, creating bright arcs that disappear into the clutches of a metal mold. Three seconds later a shape emerges, glowing orange from neck to bottom.
A glass beer bottle is born.
Tending the fiery births are men and women armed with protective gloves and goggles. They stand just below the roaring furnace and snapping scissors, watching bottle after bottle escape the mold. They nimbly climb ladders to adjust the flow. They dart into machinery to grab red-hot bottles that look defective only to the trained eye. Once in hand, the bottle droops into a shapeless mass that's tossed into the reject bin.
The new amber bottles form a conga line on a belt that marches them off to the factory's cool side. With only their bottoms still glowing, the bottles disappear. They're on their way to packaging, then to a brewery and, finally -- if you're of legal age -- to you.
SOURCES Tour: Anchor Glass Container Co., Shakopee • Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance (www.moea.mn.state.us) • Minnesota Pollution Control Agency • www.glassonline.com • Susan Hubbard, Eureka Recycling; Kim Carlson, BFI Recyclery; Julie Ketchum, Waste Management Recycle America Inc. -- all in Minneapolis.
Karen Youso is at firstname.lastname@example.org.