A recent study by the Glass Packaging Institute found that over half of all glass put into single-stream recycling ends up in landfills. Dirty and broken glass is expensive and energy-intensive to fully recycle. This dirty secret is no secret at all, with many waste management companies open and honest about recyclables being buried.
Rather than lament, Jacob Kumpon, a mechanical engineering major at Binghamton University’s Thomas J. Watson College of Engineering and Applied Science, as well as Jack Lamuraglia and Tanner Wallis, engineering majors at Clarkson University, saw an opportunity to divert this waste from landfills and at the same time reduce the carbon footprint of a massive industry.
“It all started with an article we stumbled upon,” Kumpon recalls. “Researchers were mixing crushed glass with concrete in a lab setting to reduce the use of unsustainable materials currently used.”
The trio decided to investigate this idea outside of the lab, scheduling tours of waste management companies around their alma matters. They were astounded by the amount of glass discarded and knew it could be saved. Beginning in 2019, they founded KLAW Industries, a start-up company that develops and produces glass-infused cement for use in houses, sidewalks, bridges and more.
Their competition dominance started in 2020 with $5,000 in prize money from the New York State Business Plan Competition, in which they took second place. Recognizing the need for business support, they joined Binghamton’s Koffman Southern Tier Incubator and Clarkson’s Cube Incubator — KLAW has been on a winning streak ever since.
The team recently won $40,000 by taking first place in Texas Christian University’s International Values and Ventures Competition. The TCU competition was a two-month endeavor where KLAW was up against over 1000 participants from 264 teams that spanned 28 states, 11 countries, and four continents. In the same week, they took first place and gained another $10,000 by winning the University of Georgia-Athens Next Top Entrepreneur Competition. Not satisfied with their second-place win in the 2020 NY Business Plan Competition, they re-entered in 2021 to win first in their category.
KLAW is an active participant in the Southern Tier Clean Energy Incubator (SCI) at the Koffman Incubator. SCI provides the team a host of resources including laboratory space, specialized mentorship and funding opportunities. They have also participated the XCEED and National Science Foundation I-Corps programs at the incubator, accessing over $50,000 in start-up support as well as commercialization training to discover customers and develop their innovative product based on real-world feedback.
“The SCI Program at the Koffman Incubator has allowed us to develop our technology faster by providing guidance on how to implement pilot programs with potential customers,” says Kumpon.
The team plans to use the money to ramp up research and development in their laboratory at the Koffman incubator, gaining DOT certification for their sustainable cement, and expanding to a dedicated facility in the greater Binghamton area.
“We’re looking to restructure what sustainability can be, quite literally,” says Kumpon
Learn more about KLAW at klawindustries.com