Terp Startup BreakBox Has a Fun Solution for Recycling Glass: Throw It

This summer, the Dingman Center will be conducting interviews with the fifteen student startups who are participating in our Terp Startup summer accelerator at the College Park WeWork. Participating student entrepreneurs received a stipend up to $5,000 that would enable them to work exclusively on their startups over eight weeks in the summer.

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Break Box-01Break Box Recycling Inc.

Founder & CEO: Ryan Perpall ’20, Environmental Anthropology

DC: Tell us about your startup. What problem are you solving and for whom?

Perpall: Although glass containers can be recycled endlessly, without losing strength or purity, they are the number one contaminators of recycled paper, plastic and aluminum. Removing post-consumer glass from the recycling stream helps other items retain their post-market value, and lowers the contamination level in county Material Recovery Facilities.

Our solution is to divert post-consumer glass away from the landfill and towards alternative end-markets that include glass artists, construction companies, & homeowners. Our most notable glass diversion operation is our Bottle Throwing Trailer. We built an outdoor, mobile unit that allows people (18+) to break glass containers by throwing them against a ‘break wall’ inside the trailer. We provide break games, music and LED lights to enhance the break experience. All of the glass broken at the Bottle Throwing trailer is barreled up and repurposed for use in the construction industry or by local glass artists. 

DC: How did you first come up with your idea?

Perpall: I was working for a junk removal company when my interests in glass emerged. I remember a particular day when I had to assist with the disposal of a few hundred wine bottles a client had collected over the years. Due to our location, pick-up schedules and local waste economics we had to take the glass containers to a local dump. I was shocked that there was no viable option to recycle or repurpose them. After that day I spent a lot of my free time researching the scrap recycling industry. I read case studies, watched documentaries and absorbed knowledge from my weekend job as a ‘JunkMan’. We often had to break down junk items to make more room in the back of our truck. I discovered that breaking certain items helped me relax, and made the long days fun. After much research I found that breaking glass containers was an essential step in the glass recycling process. The initial idea was to replace the outdated, multi-million dollar machines with low tech, mobile boxes that were designed to safely let people break glass in them. Years later, Break Box has blossomed into many different glass diversion ventures.

DC: What are some major milestones you’ve achieved so far?

Perpall: I worked with artists and engineers to design the Break Box. We prioritized functionality and durability. I socialized my ideas for glass diversion for 2 years before I was able to raise the seed capital in order to build the Break Box. After building the first mobile unit, I spent 6 months with a insurance company designing a custom liability plan.

DC: What drives you to keep going?

Perpall: Break Box is my dream. I owe it to my family and my ancestors to chase my dreams with a full measure of effort. Over the past few years I have only grown more in love with Break Box and everything that stems from it. I think I can really make a positive difference for people and the environment.

DC: How do you feel about working in a cohort with fellow student entrepreneurs?

Perpall: I am so excited to be apart of the Terp Startup Cohort this summer! The reason I came to UMD was to be around a community of passionate entrepreneurs; this cohort is exactly that. Every single person in this cohort is dedicated to their dream and are willing to dare greatly on the daily. Being amongst others who are dealing with the same unique circumstance of being a student AND an entrepreneur is invaluable. I think the collective brain power of this group will help move our ideas forward and narrow down decisions to get to the best possible outcome.

DC: What are you hoping to achieve during Terp Startup this summer?

Perpall: I am hoping to finally share the Break Box with the College Park community and divert a lot of glass containers. I would also like to make sincere connections with the other entrepreneurs in the cohort and help them with their startups in any way that I can.

 

 

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