Urban Mining CT gives recycled glass new life

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By Steve Barlow, Republican-American

Urban Mining CT owners Louis Grasso Jr., left, and his uncle, Patrick, stand in front of the ball mill at their facility in Beacon Falls. -STEVE BARLOW/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

BEACON FALLS — The jelly jar tossed into the recycling bin last week might become part of a concrete bridge in the future.

A new facility that recently opened on Breault Road takes the recycled glass collected by municipalities and changes it into a white, powdery material that can be mixed into cement, which can then be used for everything from roads to bridges to sidewalks.

Not only does it make the cement more durable, the material, known as Pozzotive, prevents discarded glass from clogging landfills and reduces greenhouse gas emissions at the same time.

“It’s a win-win-win,” said Louis Grasso Jr., the inventor of Pozzotive and one of the owners of Urban Mining CT, which built the Beacon Falls plant.

Grasso’s family owned a cinder block company in Kingston, N.Y., 20 years ago. While working on a project in New York City, Grasso met an architect, Robert Cox Jr., who advised him to figure out how to use recycled materials in his blocks. Grasso, 58, eventually developed Pozzotive.

The concrete block company was sold, and the Grassos started another business, Urban Mining Northeast, based in New Rochelle, N.Y., which produces and markets Pozzotive. One of its best customers is O&G Industries, and the Torrington construction firm convinced Grasso that a Connecticut site would be worthwhile.

O&G leases the 20,000-square-foot plant in Beacon Falls to Urban Mining.

Urban Mining stockpiles at its plant the recycled glass collected at municipal recovery facilities. The glass arrives there mixed in with paper wrappers, bottle tops, plastic, food residue and other debris. Some of the glass itself contains ceramics as well.

Grasso’s patented process initially sorts out the debris and removes the ceramics from the glass until it’s a sand-like substance.

“We clean the glass here to 99.5% pure glass,” he said.

That substance is then further refined until it is a white powder that can be stored in silos on the property. The Pozzotive is then trucked off to cement plants, where it can replace up to 50% of the cement.

The Pozzotive makes the concrete harder, according to Patrick Grasso, Louis’ uncle and another owner. The concrete also lasts longer because it’s less permeable, making it resistant to road salt and the thaw-freeze cycles of water, he said.

“Every ton of cement generates a ton of (carbon dioxide) gas; 6% to 7% of greenhouse gases in the world are attributable to cement,” Patrick Grasso said. “By replacing the cement, we’re greatly reducing the carbon footprint.”

Also, two-thirds of the glass put into recycling bins winds up going into landfills.

Recycled glass arrives at Urban Mining CT in Beacon Falls mixed with dirt, metal, plastic and other materials, which has to be removed. -STEVE BARLOW/REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

“There’s so much of it that doesn’t have a home right now. This product is a solution for that,” he added.

Concrete companies have traditionally used another additive, such as fly ash, a byproduct of coal power plants, to mix into their cement. But with coal plants going offline, the availability of fly ash has dwindled.

After producing test batches over the past month, Louis Grasso expected the plant to be in production within a couple of weeks. There are seven employees now; at full production, that number should double as the plant produces 50,000 tons of Pozzotive in a year.

“That’s 50,000 tons of greenhouse gases we’ll keep out of the air,” he said.