CHELAN — A new kind of crush is coming to Chelan’s wine country with help from the Lake Chelan Rotary Club.

Rather than crushing grapes to turn into wine, the nonprofit’s 911 Glass Rescue will turn empty wine bottles — at a pace of 4,000 bottles per hour — into reusable crushed glass — keeping them out of the landfill and suitable for landscaping, drainage, water filtration, sandblasting and more.

911 Glass Rescue, set to start in early July at the Chelan Recycling Center, ticks off several boxes for the service club.

In this case, a newly purchased $120,000 commercial glass pulverizing system — manufactured by Andela Products of Richfield Springs, New York, which embarked on its cross-country trip by truck Thursday and is expected to arrive Monday in Chelan — will:

  • Keep glass out of the landfill.
  • Provide a needed community service since glass recycling services were discontinued from the Chelan Recycle Center in 2019.
  • Reduces the carbon footprint that comes with transporting glass for property recycling to a distant location.

Julie McCoy led the project for the club’s Planet Earth Committee to find a sustainable model to recycle glass in the Chelan Valley. The effort was inspired, she said, by Manson High School students Megan Clausen and Devyn Smith who conducted a small glass recycling project, “Glass to Sand.”

The Rotarians took it to the next level, researching and locating commercial equipment that would pulverize bottles, jars and other types of glass into sand and glass aggregate. The Andela system separates the non-glass items — corks, lids and labels — before crushing the glass, working at a rate of up to 2 tons per hour.

The group raised $150,000 to cover the equipment cost and operation setup — insurance, legal fees, signage, steel bins, scales and buckets.

The city of Chelan provided $50,000. Another $50,000 came through a grant from the state Department of Ecology that recently established the Recycling Development Center.

“The mission of the Recycling Development Center is to find new markets for recycled material, so this project is a perfect fit,” McCoy said. The grant was procured by the Chelan County Solid Waste Department.

Wineries and businesses also got on board, including Amos Rome Vineyards, Hard Row to Hoe, Fielding Hills Winery, Tsillan Cellars and Chelan Valley Farms. Their contributions, along with those of other businesses and individuals, exceeded the remaining $50,000 goal, she said.

The equipment will be located at the Chelan Recycling Center, 23235 Highway 97A, across from Walmart, where residents and businesses can pay 2 cents per pound to drop off glass or purchase the end product, going for $5 for a 5-gallon bucket. Larger quantities will be sold at commercially competitive prices.

“To date, we have interest in large purchases from a local winery, a large construction company, a landscaping company and a manufacturer of specialty concrete products,” McCoy said. “We will be able to receive glass from outlying areas, but this program is designed primarily as a community service to the local residents and businesses. However, we will have a large capacity, as the machine crushes 1 to 2 tons of glass per hour.”

Volunteers will operate the center year-round from 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays, starting July 3, if all goes according to plan.

They are starting with eight people per shift, but expect that will drop to two or three volunteers per shift as experience smooths out the process.

Four Rotarians have been certified so far to use the city’s forklift. Chelan Fruit provided the forklift training.

“We hope to purchase an electric forklift in the future to make the operation carbon neutral, but for now, we will be borrowing the city’s forklift,” she said.

Other proceeds, if available, will go to club projects.

“We expect the operation to break even or to spin off a small amount of money,” McCoy said. “This is a pilot project, which has never been tried before in this community, so we don’t have any solid projections. Based on the interest to date, though, we expect to turn a “profit” rather quickly.”

A signup sheet for the all-volunteer labor pool is posted at 911glassrescue.org, which also includes donation opportunities and more details about the project.

“We are very excited about this project and are highly motivated to make it a complete success,” she said. “The community support has indeed been overwhelming, which bodes well for the long-term sustainability of the operation.”

Nevonne McDaniels: (509) 664-7151

mcdaniels@wenatcheeworld.com