Kiwi Company Makes Sand from Glass Bottles, Coral Reef Revitalization Project in Puerto Rico, Climate Champs–Isla Mar Research Institute & HJR Reefscaping

by | May 4, 2022 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

Kiwi company makes sand from glass bottles! Plus, coral reef revitalization project in Puerto Rico. Meet climate champions Isla Mar Research Institute and HJR Reefscaping.



Expleco (Explore Eco) Limited is a company specializing in the design and manufacturing of compact glass bottle crushers offering volume reduction solutions to a wide variety of glass waste generators. It was founded in 2009. Their aim is to assist and support environmentally conscious brands and establishments in their ongoing battle to minimize their operational footprint.

Expleco makes five distinct products. The GL Series is a single feed glass bottle crusher. It’s designed for light hospitality or commercial use (hotels, bars, grocery stores). The GLS 2.0 is more for wide bottle applications. The AFS Mini can handle about two tons per hour and is an auto feeder. The AFS Maxi is considered the industrial beast, capable of crushing up to five tons per hour. This is how big it is—you feed it using a forklift. The fourth product is called an LV Screen. It’s a post-glass crusher device. It’s a vibrating screen used to sort up to half a ton of glass/sand into graded, reusable byproducts.

Why does Expleco matter to us? Two reasons. First, as crazy as it sounds, the world is running out of sand. So recycling glass—which is made from sand, soda ash and limestone—helps. A lot. Second, according to the EPA, combined data from the Glass Packaging Institute with information from state environmental agencies to measure the recycling of glass containers in the United States, indicates the amount of recycled glass containers was 3.1 million tons in 2018, for a recycling rate of 31.3 percent.

Expleco has a Facebook presence where its developed a community of glass crushers. Worth the cruise. 

DEEPER DIVE: Expleco, EPA, Safety in Use of Recovered Crushed Glass



Ocean researchers in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico are working on a project to revive the Caribbean coral reefs. But with a twist. They’re turning old beer bottles into sand, combining it with cement and planting coral in it. Isla Mar Research Expeditions was founded in 2015. They’re marine scientists with research interests in marine protected area effectiveness, fish community composition, fish spawning aggregations and fisheries management. 

Their inspiration came from two places. One, Puerto Rico does not recycle glass bottles. That’s a problem. And two, a company in New Zealand that manufactures equipment to crush glass bottles into sand. Its mission is to provide exceptional service in marine science education, field-based research training and experience and public outreach in ocean conservation. HJR Reefscaping is a leading provider of marine and coastal habitat restoration and environmental assessment services. 

How does this work? First, bottles are crushed into sand. That sand is combined into cement, which is used to secure small fragments of coral to the reef. The specific coral they’re hoping to restore is the iconic Elkhorn coral – an endangered species that is responsible for building most of the three dimensional reef structure in our region. 

Why does the Puerto Rico coral reef restoration matter to us? Coral reefs are what is called a net carbon sink. That means they absorb more carbon each year than they emit. Coral reefs are not just suffering from ocean bleaching. Climate change has also brought more destructive hurricanes. In Puerto Rico, Hurricanes Maria and Irma in 2017 devastated an already vulnerable coral reef. 

The project began in 2021, and is scheduled to continue through 2023. By June 2021, 100 Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) fragments had been planted. The good news is Elkhorn coral is one of the fastest growing corals in the Caribbean. So far in 2022, the team has planted 300 additional Elkhorn coral fragments despite some weather setbacks. 

DEEPER DIVE: Isla Mar, MIC, Expleco



Isla Mar Research Expeditions was founded in 2015 while we were both still in graduate school at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez and we have called Puerto Rico our home since 2011. We have a combined 30+ years of diving experience and 10 years in developing and leading field courses.

Its mission is to provide exceptional service in marine science education, field-based research training and experience and public outreach in ocean conservation. We believe that science should be transparent and translated in a way that a general audience can learn and appreciate what Isla Mar is working to accomplish in marine conservation and management.

The group tailors their scientific education services to undergraduates, early career scientists and citizen scientists. They provide the training to conduct independent projects and collect quality data. The goal is to present a field-based research orientation that will equip our students with the skills they need to be competitive in the field of marine science. In the case of citizen scientists, their goal is to provide a well-balanced experience of fun and education.

Some of Isla Mar’s projects include, funded by NOAA’s Endangered Species Act Section 6 program, Isla Mar has been contracted to carry out the tasks of monitoring the last known Nassau grouper spawning aggregation in Puerto Rico. 

Aside from protecting biodiversity, why does Isla Mar Research Expeditions matter to us? Customizable field courses that it offers. The company creates fully customizable field courses and experiential learning expeditions for students and citizen scientists.

DEEPER DIVE: Isla Mar, Women in Science



HJR Reefscaping is an environmental consulting group composed of highly trained and experienced professionals. It’s been around for 21 years, and is based in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. 

Its team of scientists has a multidisciplinary skill set ranging from Marine Biology, Ecology, Geology, the Taxonomy of Fauna and Flora, Protected Species Management and Geographical Information Systems, all working to help restore, protect and manage natural resources.

HJR’s team offers solutions that meet the complex criteria associated with development of coastal and marine environments. According to its website, HJR is involved in at least 15 projects.  In addition to the Elkhorn Coral Reef Study, there’s the Escambrion Underwater Trail, where Taino reefs are used to design an underwater coral reef trail and the Isla de Ratones Restoration Efforts, focusing on restoration of coastal habitats.

HJR Reefscaping is not limited just to the restoration of reefs. They’re involved in the development of specialized structures to increase the population of Guajonales, the Puerto Rican Crested Frog. 

Why does the work of HJR Reefscaping matter to us? Above and beyond the restoration of coral reefs, which are vital to maintaining marine biodiversity, the group produces and publishes educational materials for schools and community organizations. 

DEEPER DIVE: HJR Reefscaping