When you throw a glass bottle in the recycling bin, what happens to it?
Glass is notoriously hard to recycle, but student startup KLAW Industries has developed a way to turn those old bottles into a material used in concrete manufacturing.
The team, made up of three New York engineering students, took home first place and $10,000 from UGA’s Next Top Entrepreneur competition on April 15. KLAW Industries’ business turns recycled glass into a pozzolan product, which can be used to replace 30% of cement in concrete.
KLAW was one of 10 finalists from across the country invited to pitch their startups to the judges of this year’s virtual contest. Most of the participants have spent the past year pitching their startups online, and the practice has helped to hone their presentations, said Bob Pinckney, the contest organizer and Milton Anthony (Tony) Greene Director of Entrepreneurship at UGA.
“I have been very impressed with the quality of work we’ve seen from student entrepreneurs this year, and these teams were no exception," Pinckney said. “We had 41 teams apply from colleges across the country, and each of our finalists should be very proud of what they’ve achieved this year.”
Finishing second in UGA’s Next Top Entrepreneur, the judges selected Urogix, a Washington University medical device startup that is designing an implant to treat prostate enlargement. University of Alabama’s Reboot Reforestation, which uses drones to help monitor, reforest and restore wooded ecosystems for private landowners and timber companies, won third place.
KLAW’s CEO Jack Lamuraglia, a Clarkson University electrical engineering senior; Tanner Wallis, a Clarkson University mechanical engineering student; and Jacob Kumpon, a Binghamton University mechanical engineering student are childhood friends who were inspired to find a way to divert tons of waste glass from being sent to the landfill.
“When you place a glass bottle in a recycling bin, it typically isn’t recycled,” Lamuraglia said.
“Glass is usually broken up with other materials like shredded paper and bottle caps, and that makes the glass unusable to make new glass bottles or anything else. So, recycling facilities are forced to send this glass to the landfill at a loss.”
KLAW’s trademarked product, called Pantheon, is cheaper and stronger, while providing a sustainable use for waste glass, Lamuraglia said.
“You’re selling a green, environmentally sustainable solution, which is a fantastic space to be in right now,” said contest judge Derek Odegard, CEO of CentricsIT. “You have a defensible position from an IP perspective, which I think is fantastic.”
UGA’s Next Top Entrepreneur attracts collegiate teams from across the country. This year, more than 40 teams applied for the contest. The remaining finalists included Swells of Splendor and Somewhere Waffle, both representing the University of Georgia; Bridge Networking from San Diego State University; RollOut from Missouri University of Science and Technology; AltFair from the University of Tennessee; Tocco VR from Minnesota State University; and Birthwrite Technologies from the University of Louisville.
Next Top Entrepreneur is sponsored by the UGA Entrepreneurship Program, whose mission is to help develop the mindset of future entrepreneurs and prepare students for business leadership roles. It provides a comprehensive academic program that encompasses experiential learning and equips students with the tools and resources to pursue their own start-up ventures.