Student-run glass upcycling startup creates treasures from trash

Mosa, a glass upcycling start-up founded by UBC students Prishita Agarwal and Abhiudai Mishra, is giving students a path to upcycle broken glass. 

Since December, Mosa yellow bins have begun popping up around the Nest for students to drop used glass products in. Any material you put in them are upcycled into repurposed products which Mosa sells on their website, from candle holders to shot glasses.

Mosa began with a simple observation after hosting a brunch. “When everyone was leaving, we noticed that we had a lot of used glass bottles left behind. And these were really pretty like champagne [and] wine bottles,” explained Prishita, who is studying sustainability and finance. 

“While I was throwing [the bottles] away…a lot of these glass bottles ended up breaking in the process. So I was like, if it's breaking is it still getting recycled?...That’s where the curiosity started.” 

After conducting research regarding BC’s recycling process, Agarwal and Mishra discovered that when not separated properly, broken glass can contaminate other recycling materials, ultimately leading it all to the landfill. Properly separated glass is repurposed by Recycle BC into various end-market products.

To encourage glass recycling amongst their friends, Agarwal and Mishra began collecting and upcycling broken glass themselves and turning them into everyday use items like candle holders and trays.

What started out as a passion project turned into a 23-member initiative, along with promotions from partnering clubs, workshops on how to upcycle glass and a wide network of student supporters. 

Agarwal noted that, though many UBC students are aware of the lack of proper glass recycling in the area, it is a city-wide issue. Last year, Mosa participated in 35 days of boothing at various events around Vancouver such as Christmas and farmers markets to raise awareness.

“We want to make an end-to-end circle here, like collecting waste as well as making products that work well with our end consumers,” Agarwal said. She emphasized that public feedback is crucial to how Mosa decides to expand their project.

On campus, Mosa’s yellow bin program has had a slow start because the program was introduced right before Winter break, but Agarwal hopes that with more education on how the project’s recycling process works and the implications of glass waste, the program will gain campus-wide momentum. 

After they achieve good collection rates, Mosa hopes to expand their program to the rest of campus, with plans to start selling their products in the UBC bookstore.

More information on Mosa's upcycling process will be coming soon. Agarwal emphasized that simply donating your used bottles to the project’s yellow bins is a step in the right direction. 

“Encourage more people to start donating [glass bottles] there. They can [access the bins] when they're coming to school or whatever is easiest for them.”

Correction: This article was updated on March 14 at 3:45 p.m. to clarify that broken glass can be recycled in BC, but must be sorted into its own container. The Ubyssey regrets this error.