NextCycle winner mobilizes to fight climate change

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NextCycle Colorado awarded its first prize to a glass recycling company.| Josep Curto/Shutterstock

Colorado’s Recycling Market Development Program awarded its first award to a company that has integrated GHG reduction and glass recycling into its operations.

The NextCycle Colorado program has announced that the winner of its 2022 NextCycle Pitch competition is Delta Brick and Climate Company, a Montrose, Colorado-based company that recycles post-consumer glass and clay sediment into building materials, including bricks. .

The company, which also generates electricity from methane generated by abandoned coal mines, offers a market for post-consumer glass powder too fine to be recycled into bottles, fiberglass insulation or plastic. sandblasting.

Christopher Caskey, who founded the company in 2018, told Resource Recycling that the company uses clay that has accumulated in the Paonia Reservoir and reduced its water storage capacity by about one. third. The local irrigation district reimburses the company’s costs to dig up the material. Meanwhile, Salt Lake City recycling company Momentum Recycling, which operates a glass-cleaning plant, sells post-consumer glass powder to Delta Brick and Climate Company, which mixes and bakes the brick materials from ceramic.

Glass, which makes up about 5% of bricks, improves their physical properties, he said.

“I know we’re a welcome addition to the market,” he said.

Multi-year business incubator program

NextCycle Colorado is funded by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), in partnership with the research and consulting firm Resource Recycling Systems (RRS), which provides management and technical support services.

Through a competitive process, the program selects new and expanding Colorado businesses and connects them with the resources and expertise needed to reach a point where they are ready for investors, according to a Press release.

CDPHE’s Recycling Resources Economic Opportunity program has awarded NextCycle teams more than $1.5 million in grants since the program’s inception in 2018, according to the release.

Since the launch of NextCycle Colorado, similar programs, also supported by RRS, have started in the states of Michigan and Washington.

Caskey said he applied to the program in 2018 but was not selected. But after reapplying, his company won the 2022 pitch competition, held in June after a four-month CDPHE-funded business accelerator program. As the winner, Delta Brick and Climate Company will receive a cash prize of $5,000 from RRS. Caskey was also introduced to two investment organizations, Closed Loop Partners and the Colorado Impact Fund, to discuss possible investments to help scale.

In 2022, the People’s Choice Award went to RepEATer, a reusable food container supplier in Boulder.

Other teams participating in the 2022 pitch competition, held in Boulder on June 22, included those that recycle plastics, quarry waste, residential food scraps and paper.

Delta Brick and Climate Company seeks to expand

The NextCycle award comes as Delta Brick and Climate Company outgrows its 2,300 square foot factory in Montrose, a town in the mountains of west-southwest Colorado.

“We’re packed, so we’re going to have to fundraise for an expansion,” Caskey said.

His company runs a separate facility in Colorado that destroys methane escaping from abandoned coal mines to generate electricity, he said, noting that some of the gas is simply burned to keep it out. in the air. The company’s goal is to build its manufacturing plant on land near an abandoned coal mine, so methane gas can be used to directly power the facility, he said. Currently the ovens use standard gas and electric service.

“We want to destroy this gas in a ceramic kiln and use the heat to effect the transformation of clay into ceramic,” Caskey said.

This fall, the company plans to develop a plan for a larger facility about 60 miles away. He roughly estimates that the land will cost $500,000, the new facility will cost $2 million, the methane capture system will cost $1 million, and the larger treatment equipment will cost $500,000.

Delta Brick and Climate Company is cash flow positive for the first time. Former low-interest loans from private entities and grants from state and local governments allowed the company to purchase larger equipment, enabling it to meet growing customer demand, which has drawn its finances into the black.

“We’re not losing money anymore, which is great,” he said.

His company makes both bricks and tiles, but the tiles are not made with post-consumer glass because the glass spoils the glazes, he said. The majority of the weight sold by the company is in the form of bricks, but the majority of revenue comes from tiles, some of which are custom made.

Cash flow, while positive, is still below what is needed to fund the new plant with debt alone, he said. Accordingly, he is considering a combination of debt and equity financing.

This is where conversations with investors will come into play.

He said some investors are attracted to the support of software companies, for example, but “it seems the ones we’ve featured are more interested in the tougher problems, so that’s helpful.”

He noted that the company’s activities involve both climate adaptation – increasing water storage capacity in the West, where drought conditions are increasingly common – and climate mitigation, by preventing methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from entering the atmosphere.

These benefits are important to Caskey, a scientist by training. In fact, he first developed the idea of ​​methane capture and ceramic products, he said, while working as a research assistant professor at the Colorado School of Mines on capture work. and carbon dioxide storage and while volunteering with a non-profit organization focused on methane mitigation. abandoned mines.

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