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Feature: Style as a social issue

A true commitment to sustainability has given Energywise Recycled Glass its design direction. Established in 2004, the company collects glass from 35,000 homes around Liverpool and turns it into stylish products.

Energywise Recycled Glass is part of Energywise Recycling and, with money from the Shanks Fund
and landfill tax credits, the company was charged with testing the market for creatively used glass.

With premises just 10 minutes walk from Liverpool's Albert Dock, the business now accepts commissions, makes jewellery, bowls, platters, signage, awards and corporate giftware.

In addition to collecting bottles, Energywise takes old window panes from local regeneration schemes. "It is the social element that makes this work unique," says project manager Emma-Jane Trivett. Working with a colour pallet limited to clear glass, blue, green and brown, the products have a signature look.

"It is simple but effective," says Trivett."There is an edge to the products and everything has a distinctive look. We want to keep to the true rawness of the material and allow it to speak for itself. For example, we will make a bowl from a window that used to be in someone's much-loved home, and it is this history that makes the product so beautiful."

As a not-for-profit organisation, the aim of the company is to capture 'wealth from waste', and it provides jobs and training opportunities for local people through the Government's New Deal plan or Inter-mediate Labour Market. The company began with four members of staff and now has more than 60.

The project is still in its infancy so there are not yet confirmed figures on tonnages, but Trivett says the focus is more on creating stylish, high-quality designs rather than just going through as much glass as possible.

Energywise is under licence to create the glassware under a patented process, which involves two stages of heating and then moulding the glass, effectively a hand process in an industrial setting.

"We have recently made the commitment to become a zero waste company," says Trivett. "Nothing is wasted here. We have crushing facilities and glass left over is crushed and trialled for use in golf bunkers and aquariums. In fact, making use of the smaller pieces is how we got into making jewellery."

However, examining how customers react to and interpret the word 'recycled' and subsequently how to go about marketing the products has proved more of a challenge. Trivett says that while some people really buy into the idea of the products being made from recycled material, it puts others off. "These are high-end value products, but the word recycled devalues them for some people. We have to separately target those who go for the high-design aspect and those who like the responsibility side."

With a factory shop at the Jordan Street site in Liverpool, a recently launched website and a catalogue due out in mid-November, Energywise Recycled Glass is -currently focusing on direct sales and has established quite a following.

The Blackburne House Group, a women's training centre in Liverpool, recently commissioned a bowl to present to Cherie Booth when she attended their Student of the Year award. "Apparently she was thrilled with it," says Trivett.

The business also has a customer base of artists, and Trivett says they have had fantastic feedback from them. "Certain bottles

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