Ray DelMuro is turning trash into cash — and utilitarian works of art.

DelMuro, a former manufacturing engineer for a Southern California aerospace company, is the founder of Refresh Glass LLC, a Phoenix-based company that gives empty wine bottles new lives as drinking glasses, carafes and planters.

Ray DelMuro Refresh GlassThe notion for the business sprouted in 2008 when DelMuro (shown at right with one of his products) started playing around with a mail-order bottle-cutting kit. The kit included a small scoring jig and a candle to separate the bottle, along with sandpaper to smooth the sharp edges.

“The first glass took me hours,” DelMuro says. “It became an engineering challenge.”

A somewhat difficult challenge.

“Glass wants to not melt at all or melt completely,” DelMuro says. The trick is to melt just the rim of the repurposed wine bottle without altering the shape or having it sag into a blob. That trick — a closely guarded secret — “is part of our juju,” DelMuro says.

Drinking glasses with a melted rim are smoother than those with sanded rims, he says. And more durable. It is what sets Refresh Glass apart from competitors.

Refresh Glass collects more than 15,000 wine bottles a month from more than a dozen Phoenix-area hotels and bars. Recycling empty wine bottles saves the restaurants and hotels money in garbage hauling fees. It also adds to their green street cred with customers.

“We add to their brand,” DelMuro says. “We have a waiting list of people wanting to help,” he adds.

refresh glass wine bottlesDelMuro says his company’s goal is to divert 10 million bottles from landfills. The company website keeps an updated tally of “bottles rescued.” The total is now more than 348,000.

Glass bottles can be recycled endlessly with no decline in quality, and an estimated 80 percent of recovered glass containers are made into new glass bottles. Recycling just one glass bottle saves enough energy to light a 100-watt light bulb for four hours, power a computer for 30 minutes, or a television for 20 minutes, according to the Glass Packaging Institute.

Recycling wine bottles into something you use every day, DelMuro says, “makes life a little less vanilla.”

“Every bottle has a story.”

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Former aerospace engineer parlays mail-order bottle-cutting kit into business with a mission to divert 10 million bottles from landfills.