What to do with used bottles is the question?
Bottles were becoming a serious problem in my life as I just couldn’t bear to see them lying around, littering the roads and piling up in the back areas of restaurants.
Empty glass bottles to me have a beauty just in themselves and sad to say we are seeing less and less glass bottles around as the world is turning to plastic and these are even more destructive to the environment than glass bottles.
I have a huge problem in as I can’t bear seeing these empty glass bottles piling up in the restaurants back areas or lying scattered around in fields or lying alongside the roads not only do they look awful but it can lead to people injuring themselves not to mention puncturing car tires.
In the first world one has bins where all types of refuse gets separated and put into the appropriate bin, however sad to say not where I live we actually do not even have refuse collectors. Many countries especially Africa, Asia and India don’t have separate bins most don’t even have refuse collections so eventually all this goes to dumps which is also not good.
The larger bottles like the 2 and 5 liter wine bottles have a market where mainly women go around collecting them and reselling them for many uses but the 750 ml hard liquor, wine and beer bottles seem to have no resale market at all.
There is a small market for the liquor bottles for putting in oil, paraffin and water but the people who purchase them want the tops and unfortunately most of these bottles have lost their tops along the way so are actually useless for those purposes.
So consequently many years ago I started driving around collecting the bottles and storing them on my property and as you can imagine the pile got higher and higher and I was fast becoming known as “the empty bottle Looney”.
It has got to the point that even restaurant and bar owners contact me to collect their bottles which I do with absolute glee. I have 1 person permanently employed removing labels and washing the bottles.
I then put my thinking cap on and with much switching to the right brain as to what I could do with these bottles in other words how could I up cycle them.
I came up temporarily with the following ideas whilst still thinking and experimenting for a really good solution.
- Buy craft paint pour some into the bottle and swirl it around. It looks good.
- Make vinegars from herbs pour them into a bottle cork it (as most tops are missing) label them and mainly give them away for gifts. No big market.
- Beading around the whole bottle. This sounds like hard work but actually it is very easy as you glue sections of the bottle keep your beads on the string doing about 6 rows and leave to harden. Once hardened continue. The further you go up on the bottle the more you can glue at a time as you have formed your base.
- Make lamps by decorating or painting the bottle and then getting a lampshade and fittings.
- Engraving the bottles with a small light duty engraver which are very inexpensive.
- Making paths in ones gardens with the bottles buried narrow end down. These paths look really lovely when completed
The above ideas are all fun to make and will fill a corner in one’s home, serve as gifts to family and friends, useful for storing odd things but all in all how many can one make, use or give away certainly not enough to clear up the countryside.
I needed a solution to being able to market them which would make a huge dent in all the bottles that lie around.
I decided that the low end market would be the area to concentrate on as due to poverty many couldn’t afford the higher priced glasses, bowls, lampshades and vases etc.
I then had a lot of trials and errors as with much research involved. I wanted to be able to cut them as smoothly as possible so that there would be a minimum of sanding afterwards wanting obviously to keep labor costs to a minimum.
- I attempted burying the bottle in the sand to the level where I wanted to cut it and then tied a piece of twine around pouring in boiling oil. It worked but did not always give a straight clean cut and was time consuming.
- I then found a bottle cutting machine advertised in the USA and ordered it. Sad to say it did not work as advertized leaving very rough uneven edges and broken bottles.
Eventually after chatting to some experts in the electrical field someone came up with the idea of having a small transformer with fuse wire attached to it and heating it up. We would score the bottle then place it in a cradle that we had made and place the fuse wire over it. This method cut through the bottles like butter leaving a very smooth edge. Although the edge was small it still needed especially for glasses to be rounded slightly.
We found that the most efficient fuse wire strangely enough was from the old style long fluorescent tubes which gave enough wire for the cutting of many bottles.
We then purchased a small wheel on which we attached a jewelers polishing pad, plus we rubbed a light touch of jewelers rouge around the rim and from the inside of the article switched on the polishing machine and it worked exceptionally well.
Now we were in business apart from the local community, bars and restaurants being delighted to have access to low cost glassware we wanted to look at enlarging our market.
We then decided to engrave names on the articles. Engraving is very expensive but with a small heavy duty engraver we managed to do it inexpensively due to the fact that we were not professional engravers.
What we did was to have any style print available with the client selecting their choice and wording plus a logo or picture of their choice. I would then print it out on word, wrap the printed page around the inside of the glass etc. and one of my staff members would trace it with the engraving machine, sure this was not the work of an expert but did have character to it. With practice they became fast and experts.
So if you are as concerned as I am about our environment here is a way to establish a small low cost profitable business.