Business turns unwanted glass into 'green' countertops

July 1, 2011 3:33:35 PM PDT
Waste from one business can become another one's bread and butter. That's the case with a local manufacturer that's using castoffs from glassmakers to help "green" your kitchen.

The name of the business is "Gilasi". It means glass in Swahili and it's the foundation for a growing Chicago company, the brainchild of a former developer who figured out how to turn unwanted glass green.

To the untrained eye, broken glass may look like trash, but to a visionary it's the beginning of a brand new product.

"So much energy goes into creating glass that to throw it, just to throw it away you're just throwing away hours and tons of energy that went into the making of it," said Jenna Obluck, president of Gilasi.

Gilasi sources its glass locally. They take in tempered glass from a South Side company that makes windows for oven doors. Colored lamps, vases and other artistic pieces come from an importer on the North Shore.

"With the glass that we're getting that's coming in from Italy that's being shipped in through Skokie, a lot of those pieces, they look fine but then you'll see little sticker that says, you know, flat spot," Ted Blanoc, director of operations at Gilasi.

All of the unwanted glass would have been headed for a landfill. Gilasi crushes the glass, then adds it to a cement mixture. After buffing and polishing it to a smooth finish, it's ready to be shipped as a new countertop or conference table.

"The majority of countertops these days are granite or some kind of natural stone, and they're tearing down mountains to get it. We saw this as a very nice substitute," said Obluck.

Obluck and her husband, Garrett, got the idea for the company in 2002. Garrett was developing green condos and couldn't find countertops that were eco-friendly. The couple decided to supply its own demand.

"It makes us feel good about what we do," said Obluck. "Everyday we're looking around for ways to improve our sustainability in our lives and in our business."

Gilasi countertops were installed in the Museum of Science and Industry's most recent smart home exhibit. They say the cost of their products are comparable to that of a mid-range granite. For more details about Gilasi, visit www.gilasi.com.


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