Could Locally Recycled Glass Be Used To Rebuild Lincoln Beach?

Credit: Glass Half Full NOLA

While sharing a bottle of wine a few years back, Franziska Trautmann and Max Steitz commiserated about how much glass was ending up in New Orleans’ landfills. They also cared deeply about coastal erosion. Both Tulane University students at the time, Louisiana-born Trautmann- who subsequently graduated with a degree in chemical engineering, and New Yorker Steitz -who is wrapping up his studies in international development, began researching successful glass recycling programs in Florida and New Zealand.

By starting a similar program in New Orleans, they could help save Louisiana’s coast one bottle at a time and create another recycling option. Working out of the backyard of a fraternity house, Trautmann and Steitz along with friend Benjamin Bagwill quickly collected 50,000 pounds of glass bottles from Tulane students and others. Volunteers stepped up to help sort the glass by colors- clear, greens, blues and browns. Glass Half Full NOLA was born.

The trio realized they needed money to move forward. Steitz already had experience in grassroots fundraising. He had co-founded Give Back Tulane in 2020 through which Tulane students brought in $64,000 for Second Harvest Food Bank and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Relief Fund.

A crowd funding campaign was launched which immediately brought in $42,000 from 788 donors. Eventually more than $100,000 was raised from over 1300 donors. Those funds and other donations gave them the resources to purchase upgraded glass-crushing equipment, a forklift, a van, a sifter and miscellaneous items which allowed them to recycle more efficiently and expand their reach. “Not to brag but we’ve been crushing it,” said Steitz on social media.

Today Glass Half Full NOLA collects 50,000 bottles per weekoperates out of a 40,000 square foot processing facility in the Desire neighborhood at 3935 Louisa Street. Once sorted, bottles are passed through a hammer mill and smashed against a grate. During its first year of operation, GHF turned 650,000 pounds of glass into usable silica sand and slightly larger glass cutlets. They are currently collecting approximately 30,000 pounds of glass ever week, according to Trautmann.

“Though volunteers still participate in the free, glass recycling drop-offs that we have three times a week, we currently employ six people who do all the crushing, driving, sorting and all other processing,” she said. Glass produced from recycled glass reduces air pollution.

Glass pick-up available in Uptown, Lower Garden and Garden Districts, Broadmoor, CBD, Irish Channel, Audubon, Central City, Mid-City, Lakeview, Treme, Bywater and Fontainebleau. To sign up, go to Customers can also bring glass to the processing facility on Monday and Wednesday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.

GHF began commercial pick-ups in April, 2021. Some of theircommercial customers include Snake and Jakes, Martin Wine Cellar, Faubourg Wines, Good Karma Café, Williams Architects, Barrell Proof, The Chloe, Good Eden Nola, Claiborne Mansion, Seven Three Distilling Company, BattureLLC and Wakin’ Bakin.’ They have even picked up glass from the Academy of the Sacred Heart.

Lids and corks are also being recycled. After being separate, metal is delivered to EMR Southern Recycling in New Orleans every week. In one week in February 2021, GHF recycled 19 pounds of lids. “It all adds up and we do our best to eliminate waste from the recycling stream.”

In addition to founders Trautmann and Steitz, Annie Birkentallis also a partner, Tulane graduate, and the firm’s CFO. Other members of GHF’s management team include Director of Financial Planning Benjamin Grossman and Director of Financial Operations Dalton Smith. Tulane Adjunct Professor Lee Gary serves as one of four advisors.

“We are now cash-sustaining ourselves through our paid pickup services and selling our products,” said Trautmann. They are actively planning to expand glass recycling throughout Louisiana.

During last summer’s busy hurricane season, GHF filled free sandbags with their soft, silica sand. Partnering with hand-blown glass artist Andrew Barrows, heart glass bracelets made from recycled glass bottles were available during the Valentines season. GHF’s tote bags, stickers and sandblasting media are available on Etsy. Recycled glass – which comes in several colors – is also available to “spice up” a home garden. It is available via

GHF is also working with the Krewe of Red Beans to “save New Orleans’ neighborhood bars, transform Mardi Gras and keep on recycling.” GHF has created recycled glass beans that will be available for purchase for the 2022 Carnival season ( “Buy a bean coin and help to create a life-line for our city’s neighborhood bars.”

Long-term plans call for GHF’s by-products to be used to produce new glass as well as for disaster relief, eco-construction and coastal restoration projects like the historic Lincoln Beach in New Orleans East where Black families enjoyed fishing, family picnics and other family entertainment for decades. They want GHF to be a model not just for New Orleans and Louisiana but for the world.

The beaches and marshes of Louisiana have been vanishing for decades due to climate change along with the impact of the maritime and the oil and gas industries. Already South Louisiana’s coast has lost a land mass the size of the state of Delaware. Though it would take an unimaginable amount of recycled glass to restore Louisiana’s coast, GHF wants to be part of the ongoing dialogue.

In March 2021, GHF founded Glassroots, a 501C3 tax exempt organization to expand access to recycling, provide educational opportunities and partner directly with communities to ensure their services benefit people and the environments they live in.“We are reimagining recycling as an inclusive movement to build community and benefit our planet,” said Steitz. “Our immediate goals is to get more drop off across New Orleans, work with local schools and organizations to educate recyclers and continue to collect and recycle glass.”

Everyone has a part they can play in rebuilding Louisiana’s coast and saving the planet. New Orleans bars and restaurants produce tons of glass that could be repurposed instead of going into landfills. Ask your favorite bar keep to join the movement to recycle.






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