Empty bottles from Strip bars become building materials

Bet you didn’t know all those booze bottles from your bachelor’s Bacchanalia at Mandalay Bay’s Mix Ultra Lounge ended up in someone’s fireplace mantel.

But thanks to a new product that refashions glass containers from two Strip resorts into a decorative rock called Green Stone, that’s exactly where those mementos likely landed.

To see how Green Stone works and looks, head down to the $2 million Henderson headquarters of its manufacturer, building-trim and -finish maker Realm of Design. Roughly 200,000 pounds of Green Stone compose the facade for Realm of Design’s new corporate office, a castle-like building under construction on Center Point Drive. The 30,000-square-foot building is scheduled for completion in August.

For Scott McCombs, co-owner of Realm of Design, Green Stone goes beyond mere business opportunity.

“The expense we incur crushing glass into sand is very expensive compared to buying sand,” McCombs said. “But it seemed like the right thing to do. Typically, all the glass used here (in Las Vegas) is going into a landfill.”

Realm of Design opened 20 years ago to make balustrades for American West Homes. The company, which also makes fireplace mantels, column covers, fountain pieces and fence caps from materials ranging from bronze to pewter, started manufacturing Green Stone a year ago, using wine bottles, beer bottles and other glass refuse from clubs and restaurants inside Mandalay Bay and the Luxor.

To make Green Stone, Realm of Design pulverizes the bottles into sand and mixes the crushed glass with cement. As with the glass in Green Stone, the cement is reused: While conventional cement is manufactured from ground rock that’s heated to nearly 3,000 degrees, Green Stone’s cement comes from ash generated by coal-fired power plants — ash that’s also destined for landfills. The result? A building product that’s virtually 100 percent reused materials.

But Green Stone’s best attribute may be its broader effect on local recycling, experts said.

Green Stone “closes the loop,” which means it provides a local end use for reused glass, said Rob Dorinson, president of Evergreen Recycling, the shipping company that takes bottles from hotels to Realm of Design. Closing the loop shows out-of-state recyclers that Southern Nevada can supply tons of glass to recyclers and offer end markets for refashioned glass.

“If we can recycle materials on a greater scale in Las Vegas and provide that as a feedstock to industries that use recycled material for products, we would be that much more attractive to companies looking to bring a plant here,” Dorinson said. “Their first question is, ‘We need so many tons of plastic or glass. Can you provide that?’ If we improve our recycling rate, we can offer that to them. Then they come here and create jobs and tax revenue. The economic-development aspects of recycling are represented by our recycling with Realm of Design.”

McCombs added that closed-loop recycling makes Nevada eligible for federal grants to evaluate additional reuse initiatives.

Green Stone also cuts back on transportation costs for Evergreen, which would otherwise send some of the hotels’ glass bottles to recycling plants in California, where they’d be remade into Fiberglas insulation.

Like most environmentally friendly products, Green Stone has its price. It costs Realm of Design 6 cents to 7 cents per pound to make, while sand made of the traditional pulverized rock or silica costs ¼ of a cent per pound to buy, McCombs said.

McCombs wouldn’t disclose Green Stone’s retail price, but he said the cost is comparable to Realm of Design’s other concrete-based products. McCombs said he keeps the price low despite the expense of the glass sand because Green Stone’s ash-based cement costs less than conventionally manufactured cement. The smaller expense helps offset the pricier sand, though not completely.

“I’m making a smaller profit in order to get a new thing to sell,” McCombs said.

Executives with MGM Resorts International couldn’t pass up the opportunity to help that new item get off the ground.

The gaming company, which runs multiple green initiatives, including a recycling partnership that funnels used supplies to local classrooms, wanted a place to ship its glass. After considering numerous options, it chose Realm of Design for the cost efficiency of shipping glass to a local site.

Yvette Monet, a spokeswoman with MGM Resorts, called the arrangement with Realm of Design a “win-win for all parties involved.”

Realm of Design will keep its existing 16,000-square-foot warehouse, adjacent to its new offices. But until demand for Green Stone picks up, McCombs said, he’ll use glass only from Mandalay Bay and the Luxor. McCombs expects to add clients and product lines, including paver-stones. He’s forecasting company expansion from a current 20 workers to about 100 workers in five years. (Realm of Design had 50 employees before the recession.)

McCombs said he hopes casinos that remodel or rebuild will eventually send him their glass for reformulating into Green Stone, which would then find its way back into the property as a finishing element.

It’s a possibility, Monet said.

“Ideally, we’d like to incorporate Realm of Design creations, including the decorative Green Stone, into the design of our properties,” she said. “This is one of the many innovative recycling practices at our resorts that make the ultimate statement about sustainability.”

Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at
jrobison@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4512.

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