A block of white “foam” sitting in a pool of water slowly and steadily sucked up the magenta-colored liquid. The foam, made almost entirely from recycled glass, can absorb water from around plants and store it until needed by the plant’s root system.
Earthstone, a Santa Fe-based company, hopes the new product will be an environmentally friendly boon to the agricultural/horticultural industry. Not only do the “growstones” hold the promise of diverting millions of glass bottles from the landfill, but the technology could create new, green jobs, increase harvests and reduce the amount of water used for landscaping and growing vegetables.
The company has been seeding the market, testing its new product with major growers, who are reportedly enthusiastic. Although the planned rollout won’t be until next spring, Andy Hernandez, director of operations at Earthstone, estimates the company is sitting on at least 50 truckloads of back orders. Growers, he said, “would buy as much as we could make…”
At a plant on Parkway Drive off Rufina Street in Santa Fe, Earthstone manufactures the foam blocks using technology developed by the company. Crushed glass ground into a fine powder the consistency of flour is mixed with a foaming agent and poured into ceramic molds, which are then heated to over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit in a railroad-car-sized kiln for up to 10 hours. The formula rises, creating a rigid foam that looks like a large loaf of freshly baked bread. Air released during the heating process creates bubbles in the material. The cooled cakes are ground into tiny bits for hydroponic uses or crushed into stones less than an inch in diameter for soil amendments. They can also be cut into abrasive blocks for cleaning purposes.
Hard-working and innovative folks. I only happen to know them in passing – from crews I had work on facility repair and maintenance. Their commitment to recycled products and green solutions is commendable.