Reduce, reuse, recycle isn't just lip service at Last Chance GlassŠa unique glass shop on Kaua'iŠit's business. "It's not just about glass-blowing," says co-owner of the non-profit, John Norman. "It's really about recycling, and that is so important, especially on this island. It's trash to treasures. It's taking something people view as complete garbage and making something beautiful."
Norman has been blowing glass for forty years. He studied at the Pilchuck Glass School in the state of Washington and worked with fifth- and sixth-generation glass blowers in Germany before moving to Kaua'i.
Located adjoining the Kauai Recycling Center near the Lihue Airport, the shop gets first choice of the discarded glass, which it repurposes into stunning glass art. Unfortunately, Norman's favorite kinds of glass aren't recycled because there is no deposit on them. "SKYY vodka is the number one seller for glassŠthat cobalt blue is hands down the favorite," explains Norman, "but Heineken is good, too." He also uses plenty of plate glass from broken jalousie windows.
The shop usually has an ample supply of glass piled outside the door. They go through a few hundred pounds every day. Before he can use it, Norman must scrub every piece thoroughly. He brings in forty pounds at a time, puts it in a tray and uses a hammer to break it up.
As if recycling glass isn't sustainable in itself, Norman and shop co-owner Kevin Britt have ordered a 400-pound pot to melt the glass, and plan to build a new furnace that burns vegetable oil. As soon as the county approves their permit to collect used vegetable oil to fuel the furnace, they will save around $4000 a month in propane bills. "Our goal is to be 100 percent green," says Norman. "Once we have the permit, we can reduce our overhead and concentrate on teaching recycling. Then we can get people in here who want to blow glass and work with artists at an affordable rate."
School classes visit Last Chance Glass regularly and Norman loves to see children's excitement as they watch him work with glass. To demonstrate the importance of recycling, he molds a glass rose, melts it at 2100 degrees Fahrenheit in the glory hole, a small furnace used to reheat glass while working with it, and creates another shape to illustrate that glass is recyclable. As he twirls the molten glass and rolls it on the bench, it glows bright orange. He shapes it into a flower and places it in the annealer where it will cool slowly to prevent cracking. "We want to make this work," he says. "We want to keep working with the county. Recycling is not an easy road and it's a road less traveled, but if you choose that road, there is a payoff at the end, for everyone."