Global warming is an established reality, the causes of which are mainly to be found in human activities, responsible in particular for the emission of harmful gases into the atmosphere. On an institutional level, the UN Agenda 2030, with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, represents the new global reference framework. The fight against climate change is represented by Goal No. 13, to which Goal No. 12 ‘Responsible Consumption and Production’ is closely interconnected. This goal emphasises the need for environmentally sound management of all productive activities, which should be aimed at ‘substantially reducing waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse’. All production activities should (be able to) invest in ‘green’ conversion; more so, all new business ideas should start from the same premise.
A global problem can only be solved if each of us acts locally. rehub - our start-up - was born exactly like this: we looked at our ‘local’, at the working environment that surrounds us and with which we collaborate daily, Murano and its glass masters.
We realised that 50% of the glass processed in Murano becomes waste: about a thousand tonnes of it ends up in landfills every year as special waste because it is not suitable for recycling. To dispose of this ‘valuable’ waste, glassworks spend on transport, analysis, and disposal, and then spend again to buy more raw material that will inevitably feed this loop.
The non-recyclability is a characteristic shared by Murano glass with other types of glass (e.g. glass from glasses, lamps and light bulbs, as well as double-glazing in windows); it is estimated that in Europe, the construction sector alone generates around 5 million tonnes of glass waste every year, most of which ends up in landfills or is transformed into semi-finished products for the building industry, in a down-cycling process that certainly does not do justice to this material.
This economic damage in turn generates obvious environmental damage, mainly due to the extraction of the sand needed to create the glass, and the enormous quantities of CO2 and other pollutants released into the environment during the life cycle of the glass itself.
These data prompted us to want to find a solution that would be able to locally transform furnace waste into new objects, according to the dictates of the circular economy. This led to the development of a new glass handling process, an innovative 4.0 craftsmanship technique, which enables us to transform furnace waste into a ‘glass paste’ that can be extruded at room temperature. With this technique, we 3D print new objects or decorations that lose the non-glassy part of the initial compound after a brief passage in the furnace: the result is an object made of 100% Murano glass. We create shapes that are impossible to generate with any other traditional technique; moreover, to process one kilo of glass we consume 70% less energy than a furnace would normally use.
For this process we use a custom-made patent-pending extruder, while the glass-paste formula is protected by trade secret. Moreover, we have already tested injection moulding and a process to make tiles or surfaces.