Refresh Your Events

Last month I attended an event in California. Our group enjoyed a great conference as well as many after-hour social events. Although the meeting was planned as environmentally conscious as possible, I noticed that the empty wine bottles of our events were thrown out with the trash. Hundreds, if not thousands of wine bottles must be disposed of monthly at the resort in that manner.

A week or two later I crossed paths at a Conscious Capitalism workshop with Refresh Glass, a Phoenix-based company that collects thousands of empty wine bottles from the community a week, and repurposes those into functional products for everyday use. They recognized the need to repurpose these empties and created partnerships with many local restaurants and hotels to collect their empty wine bottles in the Phoenix area.

As a planner I recognized a special synergy between an event and the repurposing of the event’s empty wine bottles. You can have bottles from their collections crafted into glasses with company or event logos, and gift them to speakers, attendees and VIPs post event. On a more intimate scale you can have special wine bottles repurposed into glasses for a newly married couple.

Refresh Glass also offers glasses with chalkboard labels that can be used to indicate place settings at events. Bottles are also repurposed as vases and candleholders. Their products get animated responses because of people’s love for aesthetic and functional items that have a story, in addition to their love for wine. Each piece they create is truly unique and has its own personality.

All of the bottles transformed by Refresh Glass are currently collected by businesses and individuals in the Phoenix, Arizona area. Ray DelMuro, Refresh Glass Founder and Owner established a goal for his company to rescue 10 million bottles, keep them out of landfills and repurpose them.

Items to gift at events can be ordered online starting at $5. Custom projects are priced accordingly and usually take 7 to 10 days from order to delivery.

Wine Bottles Get a Second Life

There are no official numbers, but apparently there are a lot of wine drinkers in Phoenix.

So, you can imagine how that could lead to quite a few empty bottles … maybe millions.

That’s why Tempe-based Refresh Glass is on a 10-million bottle rescue mission and gaining national attention at the same time.
They’re turning trash into something to be treasured.

“I started out of my garage, collecting bottles in my 4-Runner and I just wanted to make a living,” said Ray Del Muro, Refresh Glass founder. “It’s kind of grown organically on its own just because of people’s love for wine and because of the concept that it’s possible to take something that used to be thrown away and make something so valuable.”

At Refresh Glass, workers collect thousands of empty wine bottles each week from restaurants and businesses across the Valley. Then they repurpose those empty bottles into items such as drinking glasses, planters, carafes and candleholders.

“I’ve always loved art and my background is in engineering,” Del Muro said. “So, I wanted to combine the two worlds together in a way that helps the community at the same time.”

The company also celebrates the uniqueness of each bottle and what each one represents.

“The variety is still amazing to me,” Del Muro said. “Hundreds of different bottle shapes and combine that with all the hues and then the fun part for us is the history. Every bottle has its own story.”

Across the country, people are taking notice of what’s happening at Refresh Glass and placing orders.

“There’s so much potential,” Del Muro said. “We’re collecting a small fraction of all the bottles that are generated in the Valley. And to be able to make them into something functional that people can enjoy over and over again is a really awesome feeling.” Refresh Glass has collection sites for empty wine bottles at Whole Foods stores in Tempe and Chandler.

Tableware Today – Refresh Glass

Fact: glass makes up more than 5% of landfills.

Fact: two-thirds of wine bottles aren’t recycle

Fact: recycling one glass bottle saves enough energy to light a 100 watt bulb for six hours.

With these facts in mind, Ray DelMuro’s mission is to recycle 10 million bottles, fashion them into saleable product, and improve the planet in the process.

Ray DelMuro is a one-time aeronautical engineer who has found the perfect mediumto meld his left brain/right brain gifts. Refresh Glass, the company he founded in 2008, repurposes wine bottles into drinking glasses, carafes, vases, and candleholders saving 200,000 bottles from the landfill each year. Thus far, Refresh Glass has recycled more than 450,000 wine bottles on its way to its 10 million bottle rescue mission. “I wanted to find a solution to this problem and improve our planet while making something useful out of the bottles,” says DelMuro.

The Phoenix-based 36-year-old’s business has been a steady word-of-mouth grow. For five years, he’s sold his wares to local merchants as well as on his own e-commerce site. Now, DelMuro’s ready to launch on a larger scale as he works his way to that 10 million bottle goal in five years’ time. Every month DelMuro rescues 20,000 wine bottles from area restaurants, bars, and hotels. The bottles are cleaned, stocked by color, manufactured with custom built machinery of his own design, polished, and sold. “We’ve had tremendous support from the community,” DelMuro avers. “Every week we have people wanting to get involved on some level, provide us with empty wine bottles, or support our mission by featuring our products.”

DelMuro has a strong tech background with a B.S. and M.S. in industrial technology and engineering. “Ever since I was a little kid I loved Legos and art and I welded my own furniture in college, so I always knew this would be part of my life in some way, shape, or form.” DelMuro spent five years as a manufacturing engineer for a billion dollar Southern California aerospace operation constructing airplane parts. “I was an engineer because I loved creating efficiency,” he says. “I had access to millions of dollars of tools and super cool processes.”

But a sense of roads not taken impelled his next move. “I had a fancy title and, on paper, it felt like I had everything. But I didn’t. You can’t derive happiness from a resume. I wasn’t passionate about airplane parts, so I resigned.” DelMuro used his savings to travel the globe for a year, during which time he had a climactic epiphany. “I wanted a job where people could tell I loved it just by the inflection in my voice,” he says. “Life is short, and following your passion is one of the hardest things to do. It was time for me to do that.”

DelMuro sought something that incorporated his engineering background into a creative pursuit that also supported a larger cause. That’s when he ordered a bottle cutting kit and began experimenting with refashioning bottles. “It was a challenge,” he acknowledges. “My first bottle took hours.” Initially, it was an entertaining diversion; fancy vodka bottles were used to make drinkware. “I filled my cupboard with glasses,” he says. “They were unique and my friends had an emotional response to them.”

That same year, DelMuro turned his amusement into a business launching Refresh Glass from his garage, maxing out credit cards as seed money. He tended bar to make ends meet and enrolled in entrepreneurial courses to boost potential. DelMuro fabricated all his own equipment, an obvious source of immense pride. “Our rims have a perfectly beautifully smooth finish,” he beams. “I taught myself everything, trial and error.”

Using bottles proffered by a friend’s bartending company, DelMuro started with four-packs of 16oz glasses. In time, he curried relationships with restaurants and hotels to regularly receive their empty bottles. “That’s still how we do it, five years later,” he says. “It gives glass that would be wasted a whole new beginning. I transformed a problem into an effective business model.” Over the last half-decade, Refresh Glass – a most fitting moniker – has been on the receiving end of flattering local and national press. “There’s a feel-good aspect to this,” DelMuro agrees, “and a lot of people take pride in playing their part.”

Last year, the burgeoning entrepreneur decided he was wearing too many hats, so he took on a minority share investor sympathetic to purpose-driven businesses, a conscious capitalist. “I don’t handle production anymore,” he divulges. “I concentrate on product development, as well as upgrade and fix the machinery. I’m more of a boss now than a production person. It’s about helping the business grow. People love our products; we just need to let the world know we exist.” It’s his greatest challenge, he admits. “In the beginning we didn’t have much of a marketing budget, and we were telling our story one person at a time. Now, we’ve jumped to the next level with great media support.” To capitalize on the positive press, Refresh Glass has taken on a sales team, doubled production capacity, and introduced new collections. “Last year was a big growth spurt for us,” he says. “We moved to a larger space [their fifth upgrade, now operating from a 6,000-square-foot facility] where we produce 1,000 pieces a day, and we’re building inventory.”

The dishwasher-safe, highly durable assortments include five colors – green, gold, clear, antique, and amber (the most popular color perhaps because it’s the least expensive since there are so many amber bottles recycled). There are 75 SKUs – drinkware , carafes, vases, planters, soy candles – which retail from $15 to $40.

The newest collection, the Refresh Memories Kit, has DelMuro stoked. Here’s how it works: customer request an empty crate from Refresh Glass which they fill with the empty wine bottles from an important celebration, like a wedding or birthday. The bottles are then sent to Refresh Glass where they are transformed into etched momentos with names, dates, or other personal messages. “This is a real game changer for us,” DelMuro proclaims. “We transform bottles used at an emotional event to a tangible product. This kit allows people to relive their most cherished memories.” The kits retail from $200 to $350 depending on if you use their collected bottles or your own. The kit includes the cost of the etching which is done in house. “It’s such a unique way to relive the event,” DelMuro continues. “It’s a great gift with real everyday function. The biggest thing on my to-do list is getting th word out on these kits.”

DelMuro is bullish on business, his sights set on being a $20 million player by decade’s end. “Only people crazy enough to dream it get there,” he maintains. “And our product will get us there.” A promising partnership with Whole Foods – it starts locally where Refresh Glass enjoys a huge presence, with the intent of going national – as well as an innovative social media project where DelMuro posts on different product uses for a wine bottle’s parts (like trivets made out of corks) are outside-the-box projects that fuel DelMuro’s passion, a passion clearly palpable in his voice, which he so desperately desired.

”Everyone wants their efforts to be a story and part of something better,” he says. “People love wine and have an attachment to it. You enjoy it with people you care about. Every one of those wine bottles was filled and sold somewhere. Then we step in, take the empty bottle, remake it, and sell it so it has a whole new life. How many products do you know with a story like that, that’s so unique? It’s like a Forrest Gump box of chocolates; every glass has a different story. And, in the process, we’re bettering the planet a bottle at a time.”



One Bottle at a Time – Old wine bottles become works of art

By Katie Snyder


Ray DelMuro has always known what he’s destined for.

“I’ve loved making things since I was young,” says DelMuro. “From Legos to welding my own furniture in college, I always knew it would be a part of my life in some way, shape or form.”

And it was. DelMuro’s glass making odyssey started back in 2008. DelMuro was working as a manufacturing engineer for a Southern California aerospace company when he started experimenting with empty wine bottles and a bottle-cutting kit.

“More than two-thirds of wine bottles in America are not recycled,” says DelMuro. “I wanted to find a solution, improve our planet and make something useful out of the bottles.”

Determined, he sat for hours, sanding and cutting away until he had a functional piece of art.

“It was a challenge,” says DelMuro. “My first bottle took hours.”

Eventually he figured it out and decided to take his experiment and turn it into a business. That same year, DelMuro launched Refresh Glass, a Phoenix-based company that recycles empty wine bottles, turning them into drinking glasses, vases and other works of art.

“Refresh Glass has transformed a problem into an effective business model,” says DelMuro.

And it has worked. Every month more than 10,000 wine bottles are recycled from area restaurants, bars and hotels. They are then cleaned, stocked by color, manufactured with custom built machinery and polished at a manufacturing facility in Tempe.

Today, Refresh Glass has recycled over 400,000 wine bottles and his products can be found online or at Valley establishments like Postino, Pizzeria Bianco, Hyatt Gainey Ranch, Phoenix Public Market and Practical Art.

“We’ve had tremendous support from the community,” says DelMuro. “Every week we have people wanting to get involved on some level and help provide us with empty wine bottles or support our mission by featuring our products.”

But their bottle rescue mission doesn’t stop there. According to DelMuro, Refresh Glass has big plans for 2014, thanks to a recent partnership with Valley grocery chain, Whole Foods.

“Together with Whole Foods, we plan to launch a bottle collection program,” says DelMuro. “This will allow more individuals to get involved and help our bottle rescue mission.”

The program will start in Tempe and eventually run in all Valley Whole Food stores as well as those in the Southern Pacific United States. The popular grocery chain will sell DelMuro’s products as well.

“This is a great opportunity for Refresh Glass,” says DelMuro. “We couldn’t be more excited and this is just one of our planned business ventures that will come in 2014.”

Also in 2014, Refresh Glass plans to join forces with other Valley hotels and event venues offering what DelMuro is calling the “Refresh Memories Kit.”

“From weddings to birthday parties, this kit will allow people to relive their most cherished memories,” says DelMuro.

According to DelMuro there will be several different options that include various types of bottles and an etching option, all for under $500.

“From our custom packages to our individual products like vases, glassware and candle holders–our product is unique,” says DelMuro. “With the continued support from our partners and various clients, we hope to continue our bottle rescue mission and show our on-going commitment to bettering the planet one bottle at a time.”