As students returned to classes recently, children in one Dallas-area elementary school were walking on broken glass. To be more precise, students at Carolyn G. Bukhair Elementary walked on 100% post-use recycled glass pieces safely secured in the school's seamless epoxy terrazzo floor. EnviroGLAS® Products, Inc. and partner American Terrazzo of Garland, TX installed the environmentally friendly and durable floors in a variety of vibrant epoxy colors to meet the school’s opening date of August 19.
EnviroGLAS® president Tim Whaley was thrilled that parents came in with their children the first day of school to see and walk on their ecologically sound floor. “We hope the floor will inspire families to explore ways to recycle and reuse, as well as buy products made of recycled materials. As most cities have less than 20 years until their landfills are full, we can’t afford not to make recycling part of our lives,” Whaley noted.
It was just two years ago that a glut of old glass bottles, mirrors and windows became the source for this chic green twist to the classic flooring concept. Publicity in July 2002 about Plano, Texas’s overabundance of crushed recycled glass inspired the creative solution of combining the multi-colored crystals with epoxy resin to create recycled glass terrazzo.
It was a perfect match. The city of Plano already had a glass crusher machine that could tumble the glass trash into usable aggregate. An established terrazzo company donated installations to renovate flooring in the City of Plano’s high-traffic public works building and the headquarters of their recycling partner, Trinity Waste Services. “It’s a forever floor because it’s poured into place, sanded and polished, and it’s so highly durable,” said Frank Sienkiewicz, plant manager at Trinity. Just as appealing as the floor’s 40+ year life cycle is its exquisite beauty. “Everyone who sees the floor is amazed by it. It looks fantastic,” he reports. Both projects were stunning, and EnviroGLAS® Products Inc. received the Recycling Alliance of Texas’s 2003 “Closing the Loop Program” award.
Glass aggregate from Plano’s recycling program now graces floors in numerous north Texas public buildings, including a University of North Texas residence hall, the Cities of Denton and McAllen Solid Waste Divisions, Frisco’s Bert & Eloise Isbell Elementary and two other Frisco I.S.D. schools yet to be named. Portions of the DFW International Airport’s new terminal D along with the ‘Automated People Mover’ stations have utilized recycled glass terrazzo. Local corporate projects include Starbucks in Highland Park Village and Sundance Square, and the regional sales office for Sherwin Williams.
Interest in recycled glass terrazzo has broadened beyond North Texas; it was recently installed in airports in Jacksonville, Florida and Memphis, Tennessee. Ecologically-oriented architects are all the more intrigued when they learn that EnviroGLAS Terrazzo® can contribute to 7 or more US Green Building Council LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) points of the 69 total available. Post-use glass terrazzo provides resource and reuse, recycled content, local/regional material and indoor emitting materials credits to companies who want to “build green.” The U.S. government added its stamp of approval in August 2004, awarding a national patent for ‘making a terrazzo surface from recycled glass.’
Still, many municipalities across the nation continue to be overloaded with recycled glass. Adams County, IN, Macon, GA, Roanoke, VA and Clovis, NM were all in the news this year due to glass recycling programs run aground because of a lack of market for their recycled glass. While glass container factories use recycled glass in production of new bottle and jars, municipal recycling programs are often unable to meet their strict requirements for cleanliness and separation. Location of interested buyers is also an issue; the weightiness of glass means transportation beyond the local region ends up canceling out any profit or even costing money. Even in North Texas, the majority of glass is not being reused. At the same time Collin County has discovered a new flooring use for recycled glass, the region has been forced to open a new mega-landfill. In about 40 years the new dump will be the tallest in Texas - as high as a 25-story building - and taller than any current building in the Collin County.
The irony of dumping old glass in new landfills while recycled glass terrazzo awaits greater acceptance begs the obvious question. Why don’t more organizations embrace the opportunity to turn old glass into something beautiful and new? Those seeking aesthetic flexibility find recycled glass terrazzo provides endless options, and any quality concerns are easily put to rest by visiting a finished project or hearing from those who have. The circle of advocates for a more sustainable approach to floor design grows larger each time a new floor is poured.
Bukhair Elementary is the latest recipient of Plano’s surplus recycled glass. Ecologically sound terrazzo runs throughout the two-story building in vivid blue, mustard, jade, and several shades of beige. Flowing lines criss-cross squares on the cafeteria floor, and the upstairs hallway floor is a subtle, meandering terrazzo checkerboard. District’s values like ‘fairness,’ ‘patriotism,’ ‘honesty’ and others are inlaid in the main entrance and hallway, and are repeated in a hanging mobile over the front desk.
“We are proud to open the school and present the community with environmentally friendly ‘recycled glass’ floors,” stated Richardson ISD’s Executive Director of Facility Services Michael Longanecker, AIA. “Terrazzo has always been one of our preferred floors finishes due to its durability and ease of maintenance. The combination of good looks, reduced maintenance costs and re-use ecology makes it a win/win situation for the District,' he said.
Schools in another North Texas school district have recently been declared un-usable due to roof leaks that led to moldy carpets, now disposed of in another North Texas landfill. The recycled terrazzo at Bukhair is not only a sustainable surface to walk on and a more responsible use of public moneys; it will also be an educational tool. Through a partnership with EnviroGLAS® Products Inc., Bukhair students will receive encouragement and instruction in ecology, recycling and sustainability. In a long-term process undertaken to inspire the next generation of green builders, generations of Bukhair students will be educated as environmental emissaries to help America dispose of its throw-away mindset and remind us all that there are better uses for America’s land than more new landfills.
Tim Whaley is President of EnviroGLAS® Products Inc....converting would-be trash bound for the landfill into elegant, durable, environmentally friendly hard surfaces and landscaping materials. www.americanterrazzo.com/enviroglas.html