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Stelk thinks Ripple will change that equation with the convenience of the Dumpsters. In fact, the company's business plan depends on it. "The amount today is nowhere near enough to supply us to the level of sustainability," Utz says. "We have to increase glass rates around the city."
In order for the business to break even, Ripple needs to increase the glass-recycling rate to 20 percent. That's four times the current rate, but Ripple's crew is hopeful. "We've been pretty conservative in our projections," Stelk says. "We hope that in year two, we'll have triple the amount we have now."
Ripple has some marketing money to boost its image. In 2008, the Mid-America Regional Council kicked in an outreach grant of $300,000. At least $200,000 of that went to purchase the purple collection bins. The remainder will go to public education: signs in grocery stores, little reminders in liquor retailers. Stelk is banking on the popularity of Boulevard, too.
On the desk of his warehouse office on Crystal Avenue, Utz flips over a typical Boulevard-branded coaster. The other side is printed with the flying-bottle logo for Ripple Glass. The coasters will be hitting bars soon. In coming months, when customers open a six-pack of Boulevard, they'll also get a flier about Ripple Glass.
"We've got better local-market penetration that almost any small brewery in the country," McDonald says. "Kansas City does support local endeavors. We've been incredibly well-supported."
And he thinks the cultural zeitgeist is tipping in his favor.
"In my mind, the world is becoming a more global thing, but consumers want more local," he says. "I think my parents' and grandparents' generations saw nothing but better, faster, more stuff. But that's not the way the world is going to be moving forward."
That's not the only reason he's optimistic about changing Kansas City's mind about recycling. Tom Coffman, Deffenbaugh's spokesman, says he's been taking calls for years from people who are outraged that they can't recycle their glass at the curb. The few men and women unloading empty bottles into the giant, green Dumpsters at 3 Trails agree that they'd like to see more recycling sites. One, who has driven from Warrensburg, complains, "It sucks that there's not a glass-recycling place close to home." Tom Buck rushes over, brandishing a Ripple Glass brochure.
Earlier this year, Boulevard introduced its pilsner. It's not exactly the sophisticated brew that McDonald prefers, but it's what 95 percent of Americans drink, he says.
"And sometimes, you got to give people what they want."