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Rochester glass experts travel to Washington to discuss recycling with lawmakers

Jeremiah Watson and Patrick Elmore were asked by the National Glass Association to travel to Washington, D.C., this week to meet with lawmakers to discuss how to spur more recycling. Watson and Elmore were invited because their company -- Infinite Recycled Technologies -- is the only one that recycles laminated or architectural glass.

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Glass is brought in for processing at Infinite Recycling's Albert Lea facility.
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ROCHESTER — When it comes to recycling laminated glass used in buildings, no one knows more than two Rochester men, Jeremiah Watson and Patrick Elmore.

That’s why they were asked by the National Glass Association to travel to Washington, D.C., this week to meet with lawmakers to discuss how to spur more recycling, particularly in the construction industry. The trip is part of NGA’s promotion activities in light of 2022 being declared the International Year of Glass by the United Nations.

Watson and Elmore were invited because their company — Infinite Recycled Technologies — is the only one in the U.S. that processes laminated or architectural glass to separate the plastic sandwiched between the panes of glass to end up with “clean” glass and plastic to be sold as commodities to be reused.

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Patrick Elmore, Jeremiah Watson, Glen Watson and John Watson.

Almost all of the millions of tons of laminated glass waste from manufacturers as well as the glass from buildings being upgraded or demolished are dumped into landfills every year.

Rochester’s Watson Recycling, led by CEO Jeremiah Watson, tasked President of Business Development Patrick Elmore and the family-owned company’s R&D team to create a one-of-a-kind, patented machine to separate all kinds of laminated glass and mirrors into piles of separate parts that can be recycled.

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That experience is why the National Glass Association wanted the Rochester men in Washington.

“They're really pushing for energy efficiency and retrofitting government buildings. Their goal, obviously, is to illustrate glass as a really good building material,” said Watson. “They really want to emphasize the recyclability of glass and the perception has always been that you can’t recycle windows, certainly not laminated glass. So the NGA really wanted to emphasize to Congress that not only is it recyclable, there's a company doing it right now.”

In 2020, Infinite’s glass processing machine went into operation in Albert Lea. It recycled approximately 17 million pounds of glass and plastic in 2020 that previously would have been dumped into a landfill.Infinite opened a second facility in Florida in 2021.

They estimate that Infinite and its team of about 24 employees are processing about 60 percent more glass now than they were in the fall of 2021.

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Elmore said that Infinite is now looking to open two locations in the southwest and northwest parts of the U.S. in the near future.

The Infinite Recycling venture is just the latest for the Watson family, which has deep roots in southeastern Minnesota.

When Rochester documented its first city landfill in the 1890s, William Watson — Jeremiah’s great-great-grandfather — was appointed as the “chief scavenger.” His job was to go through the dump and pull out anything that could be reused or sold for raw material.

Watson’s grandfather and father -- Rodney Watson and Glen Watson -- also worked with trash and recycling. Glen Watson now serves as president of the recycling operation that launched in 2006 with many of his 16 children working for the company.

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Jeff Kiger tracks business action in Rochester and southeastern Minnesota every day in "Heard on the Street." Send tips to jkiger@postbulletin.com or via Twitter to @whereskiger . You can call him at 507-285-7798.

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Jeff Kiger writes a daily column, "Heard on the Street," in addition to writing articles about local businesses, Mayo Clinic, IBM, Hormel Foods, Crenlo and others. He has worked in Rochester for the Post Bulletin since 1999. Readers can reach Jeff at 507-285-7798 or jkiger@postbulletin.com.
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