Industry Visionaries Make East End Houston The Hub of Recycling and Repurposing Solid Waste

Style Magazine Newswire | 7/17/2018, 11 a.m.
An entrepreneurial spirit is driving a generation of futurists who are merging their environmental activism with economically viable enterprises. This ...

An entrepreneurial spirit is driving a generation of futurists who are merging their environmental activism with economically viable enterprises. This new group of developers is finding green capital in what has traditionally gone into landfills.

East End Houston has become the hub for some these large and small enterprises. Currently, nearly two dozen companies process varied materials in the area. These materials include zinc, plastic, glass, metals, computer parts, building materials, textiles and more.

Some of these green enterprises are the result of the work of the East End District in promoting the amenities and ideal elements for industrial entrepreneurs like Caroline Kostak, founder of RePurpose Depot.

In 2011, Kostak became fascinated with recycling building materials. Her interest peaked when she was introduced to the fast-growing concept of Green Building, a process that uses new and used building materials that normally go into landfills. She took the leap and got the required training to be the local representative of ReUse People of America (TRP), a national nonprofit organization that recycles building materials. The startup phase presented insurmountable challenges due to costs, shortage of skilled labor, warehousing and logistics. Not one to give up, Caroline pivoted and started RePurpose Depot (RPD), a partner organization to TRP. Her experience helped her to innovate a working model for demolition and sourcing materials.

When Hurricane Harvey hit, Kostak was ready and RePurpose Depot became an instant success due to the flood of requests to deconstruct and demolish damaged structures. This perfect storm aligned conditions to hire the right demolition team and create a suitable warehouse to merchandise their inventory to homeowners with limited resources and building contractors. RePurpose Depot's mission became "Repurposing People Places and Things." Caroline and her partner, Russell Klein, an expert in solid waste management, are out to create a new model of how construction and demolition waste is handled in the United States. RPD is an organization that provides work and a second purpose for people in recovery. Moreover, this sustainable model provides tax deductions for homeowners to offset the deconstruction and demolition as well as repurpose building materials.

Mark Austin’s We Can Recycle is a company that processes disposed glass. His trajectory and destiny changed after he saw the environmental documentary "An Inconvenient Truth." Since then, Austin has spent a decade, through trial and error, creating a sustainable supply chain to turn disposable glass bottles into glass beads that are used in fiberglass manufacturing and glass foundries. The key to his success was finding a way to reduce the cost of recycling below that of solid waste disposal. Austin now feels satisfaction that he is contributing to the air quality of the community and the planet.

Designer Sarah-Jayne Smith launched Magpies & Peacocks in 2011. The company is made up of a team of industry mavericks who are recycling textiles and clothing. Having worked in both the purchasing and purging of clothing in the fashion industry, Smith saw firsthand the vast amount of waste the industry sent to landfills. This knowledge of excess in consumerism led to having a mindset of conservation and recycling. The company has garnered local, regional, and international recognition for its efforts in recycling over 150,000 pounds of post consumer textiles from landfills over a seven-year period. The driving philosophy of Magpies & Peacocks is “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.”

The common elements of these and all other recycling companies in East End Houston is the vision to minimize waste in landfills and to be a part of the new creative force that is transforming the East End into a Mecca of ecological forward-thinking entrepreneurs. According to Veronica Chapa Gorczynski, President of the East End District, "with new low-cost technologies, innovation, and synergistic partnerships being formed, we are beginning to see just a glimpse of a future Green Houston and it’s happening in East End Houston."