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Designer garden boost for glass recycling
House Clearance Carlisle reported last year on a new use for recycled glass as a decorative mulch increasingly being used by garden designers to top plant containers, fill gaps between slabs and similar applications. House Clearance Carlisle reports that demand from the public for their Crystaleis Recycled Glass Gravel has mushroomed thanks to publicity in gardening magazines as well as its use in DIY/Design TV programme, Homefront in the Garden. Consumer magazine, Garden Answers also features the glass mulch as ‘Recommended Product’ of the month in its March issue, predicting that ‘coloured glass mulch is going to be the most sought-after product in gardens this year’.
The mulch is made from glass containers and a modern day recycling miracle is performed: green glass cullet with a negative value is turned into a product retailing at £6.99 for 20kg. Clear, amber and blue cullet (pictured above) are also used, with blends of the different colours producing a wide variety of shades for today’s designer gardens. With gardening the new Rock & Roll, there’s an enormous potential market to be exploited.
So how did this ‘wonder product’ come about? Development work by Windmill Aggregates looked into a way of turning cullet into an aggegate substitute. There has been a certain amount of research already into using recycled glass in asphalt and cement, with diappointing results released so far by various parties. Windmill decided to look at it a different way: using processed cullet as gravel. They examined ways of turning cullet into a safe, hygenic and above all aesthetically pleasing product. As has been proven time and time again, the public will not buy a product simply because it is recycled, it has to perform as well as a new product, in this case gravel quarried and processed as a virgin raw material. However, the recycled glass mulch actually enjoys a positive advantage over the equivalent virgin material: its colour and light reflective properties. For once recycled glass has the edge. It is also effective at retaining moisture in the soil and reasonably slug repellent. It also has the all important ‘crunch’ under foot.
The product was launched to the public at Chelsea Flower Show, and has been covered extensively in the gardening press. To ease marketing, Specialist Aggregates, headed by Steve Le Chevalier, has been set up as an agent for the product and demand is proving high at the moment, with the number of garden centre suppliers increasing daily. The company is currently in talks with gardening wholesalers and distributors. As for the future, the manufacturers hope that the mulch will become more of a mainstream product, rather than a designer feature, which will obviously vastly increase the tonnages involved. And the companies are not only producing glass mulch. Steve revealed to Recycling World that they are about to launch a new range of paving and fountain products made of a combination of recycled granite sand and Crystaleis. They are also supplying a terazzo tile manufacturer with recycled copper which is being used to add a metallic sparkle to floor tiles. Further research into scrap metal applications in designer gardening is underway.
The production process
Glass has been used for mulch purposes before (green glass gravel is widely used in cemeteries), but the glass involved is melted and dyed in a glass furnace at considerable expense and sells for up to £35/20kg. What Windmill wanted to do was find a process that would not involve any melting. After months of work they developed a system whereby processed cullet is bought in and graded, sterilised, tumbled and dried in a purpose built plant to produce Crystaleis. Safety is ensured by tumbling until any sharp edges are removed but the glass retains its sparkle. Particle size is carefully controlled to ensure that the mulch is safe to walk on. However the company does advise that their larger 6-10mm size is not used for areas where children play. The Crystaleis grains are strong enough to resist shattering and the tumbling process removes any cracked pieces.