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See Recycling in a New Light

By Lawrence Grown, Co-Owner of Metro Lighting, Berkeley CA

See Recycling In A New Light

Metro Lighting makes pendants from post-consumer liquor bottles

You might be surprised how much energy goes into creating a custom-branded liquor bottle. Designers sculpt its attractive and recognizable shape. Custom molds are manufactured for bottle production. At the factory, molten glass is blown into the molds using specialized machines. The bottles are sterilized,then filled with their appointed liquid, be it bourbon, tequila, or gin, etc. At the store, shoppers drink in the beauty of these shimmery objects lined up on shelves. Filled with their costly and powerful liquors, they speak of contentment, celebration, relaxation, and luxury.

Once the liquor has been drunk, however, what happens to the empty bottles? Most often they get recycled--crushed, melted, and turned into other glass products, often new bottles.

Metro Lighting offers a different recipe. They harvest the most attractive ones and transform them into lighting glass.

Metro collects most of their bottles from the recycling center in West Berkeley. They are cleaned and sorted and stored in a warehouse. Up to one hundred bottles at a time are taken to a glass artist who removes the bottlenecks and bases with a tile saw. The edges are ground and polished with special diamond-impregnated, water-cooled lapidary wheels. Back at Metro Lighting, the labels are removed with Simple Green, and the finished shades receive their final polish.

This particular recycling system works well for a number of reasons. First of all, the resulting glass shades are beautiful, with forms sometimes architectural, sometimes embossed with patterns. Most importantly, by repurposing the bottles with minimum alteration, all of the time and energy that went into their creation, also called their “embodied energy,” does not go to waste. Local glass artisans are employed to cut and polish the glass. And if a shade ever gets broken, it can be recycled in the curbside municipal recycling stream.

"First and foremost, the bottles are beautiful; but the fact that we’re upcycling makes all of us feel great about our contribution to curbing waste,” says Metro Lighting co-owner Christa Rybczynski.

While some other companies have repurposed liquor bottles, even for lighting, there are a few facets that make Metro Lighting’s bottle glass unique. Although the bottles vary greatly in size and shape, Metro trims them so the opening is a uniform size, meaning that they can be interchangeable: The same bottle shade can be used to adorn a pendant, chandelier, or table lamp. And you can easily swap that bottle shade for another with the just turn of a threaded ring.

So before you toss a gorgeous liquor bottle into the bin, consider if it might be the perfect accent to hang over your table. Impress your friends with your great taste and green values. When it comes to fine lighting and sustainability, Metro Lighting raises the bar.

See Metro's Bottle Glass Collection here

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