Students for Bar Recycling April Fools’ Day Party
Featuring: Braswell Robert Band and other acts TBA
When: 9 p.m. Wednesday
Where: The Granada, 1020 Mass.
Tickets: $2-$8, (18 and over show)
More info: 842-1390
Andrew Stanley was sitting with a group of friends at The Jazzhaus when the bar announced last call.
“We had a table full of beers we’d been drinking that night,” the Kansas University senior recalls. “We went to recycle them, and (an employee) said, ‘No, we don’t recycle. Just throw them in here.’ So I threw them in this giant trash bin that was full of bottles. I thought it was crazy that they didn’t recycle.”
Consequently, Stanley decided to do some research to find out if the lack of glass recycling was typical among Lawrence establishments.
“We went on the Lawrence.com list of bars and started calling every one,” he says. “We weren’t received very well. People would respond, ‘No we don’t,’ then hang up. We called about 25 bars before we gave up trying to find one that recycled.”
The incident compelled Stanley to form Students for Bar Recycling, a KU organization that launched in December with the mission of convincing Lawrence watering holes to alter their recycling practices.
Stanley says, “We have a goal of overall Lawrence recycling — not just two or three bars people can go to. Our approach is to do a pilot program with one specific bar where we can go in and do waste audits to get a feel for how much they’re paying for solid waste, versus how much they’re paying for recycling.”
To put that plan into action, he and fellow Students for Bar Recycling (SBR) members contacted the newly opened Wilde’s Chateau 24, 2412 Iowa, and volunteered to haul away a Friday night’s worth of spent bottles to the 12th and Haskell Bargain Center.
They gathered 144 pounds of glass.
“It’s not a very easy task to ask bars to do recycling because there’s so much waste produced in one night. But I think because Lawrence is such an eco-friendly city, it was exciting to think about the possibility,” says Kate Wasserman, KU senior and vice president of SBR.
“I feel like there are a lot of bars that would be accepting of the idea if it were made accessible to them.”
Nick Carroll was one of the first bar owners contacted by the students.
“It’s a great idea, but it’s going to take some development to get it to work. It’s a lot of glass,” says Carroll, who owns The Replay Lounge, 946 Mass., and The Jackpot Music Hall, 943 Mass.
From the day the Replay opened in 1993, Carroll says the establishment has been recycling cans, which account for about 50 percent of beer sales. He says the Replay typically sells 1,500 cans a week. (Currently, the operation is serviced twice a week by Cans for the Community, a Lawrence nonprofit that provides financial support to other nonprofits in Douglas County through recycling aluminum containers.)
But glass is a different story.
Carroll explains glass is problematic because if left outside too long it attracts swarms of flies.
“The other problem with glass is it’s dangerous,” he says. “If someone’s doing recycling in their house, where they’re only producing a trash can full of glass, it’s doable. But we’re producing hundreds of pounds a week of really sharp shards.”
He estimates glass bottles account for about 25 percent of Replay sales and about 60 percent for the Jackpot.
Right now there is no service in town that will collect such a large volume of glass for free.
“When we’re doing thousands of bottles, we have to pay to have that service. If there’s (an economic) solution to where we can feasibly recycle glass, most bars would like to do it,” he says.
Carroll suggests if even a quarter of the glass could be salvaged rather than attempting to do it all at once, that would be a start. He would be willing to pay for that service up to a point, but he says it would be unlikely that most area bars would want to spend hundreds of dollars a month to fulfill the duty.
He says since all his cans and cardboard are already recycled, the only holdout is the glass.
“We really don’t have any other trash. It’s just beer bottles,” Carroll says. “It’s not like we throw kegs away.”
Re-use it or lose it
Efforts by Students for Bar Recycling are already beginning to make an impact.
Stanley says several bars in Lawrence and Kansas City have contacted his organization about wanting to recycle. Also, students in Oklahoma and California have apparently established similar organizations after hearing about SBR.
“People know about us, but we haven’t accomplished what we set out to accomplish yet,” Stanley says.
He hopes this week will make a difference when the group hosts its first official event: Students for Bar Recycling April Fool’s Day Party. The Wednesday gathering will feature four local acts (headlined by the Braswell Roberts Band) and begin at 9 p.m. at The Granada, 1020 Mass.
SBR will be selling mugs with its logo at the show. Proceeds will go to buying recycling bins for the bars.
Stanley hopes to throw a green pub crawl within the next few months in which he signs up five bars that agree to recycle. Until then, he’s still searching for a business to accept his pilot program.
“We hope to prove that it’s not that difficult for a bar to do. Once we have those results, we plan on going to the city commissioners to pass an ordinance,” he says.
The group’s biggest ally so far hails from outside the state.
Previously, glass recycled in Lawrence was transported to St. Louis or Oklahoma City. (“You factor in transportation costs, and it may not make sense both environmentally or economically to recycle it,” Stanley says.) But by the end of summer, Ripple Glass, a new glass processing plant started by the owners of Boulevard Brewing Co., will open in Kansas City, Mo.
Stanley says they’ve agreed to help SBR provide a roll-off bin in Lawrence.
“Recycling has always been the easiest way we can do our part to help protect this earth,” Wasserman says. “It’s so easy: Instead of putting it in one trash can, you just put it in another one.”