- Strategic Materials (SMI) has acquired Missouri-based Ripple Glass for undisclosed terms. All Ripple employees are expected to remain with the company, and Ripple’s branding will remain in place for its collection services, SMI said.
- The Kansas City-based Ripple is known for its distinctive purple drop-off bins throughout multiple Midwestern states as well as a growing collection system for commercial and residential accounts. Ripple manages an estimated 45,000 tons of glass per year in its own processing facility.
- "We are excited to bring Ripple Glass into the fold, which includes a talented team, a premier glass collection model and another glass recycling facility," said Chris Dods, president and CEO of Strategic, in a statement. "With Ripple's proven track record of success, we are confident the model will play a significant role in expanding our recovery efforts, in addition to our current partnerships in single-stream recycling."
Glass recycling investment has been on an upward climb in recent years, following a challenging period for markets and logistics. This acquisition by Strategic, North America’s largest glass recycler, is a sign that further focus on glass-specific collection models that capture high-quality material may be ahead.
"SMI's position in the marketplace is unmatched and their mission and values closely align with ours — it was a natural fit to combine forces," said Greg Orman, an owner of Ripple Glass, in a statement. "Our partnership will springboard the Ripple collection model nationwide and bring glass recycling to underserved areas."
Ripple was founded in 2009 by owners of Boulevard Brewing Co. in Kansas City with the goal of finding a better outcome for their glass beer bottles. The company built a processing facility and began scaling up collections in the area to eventually cover an estimated 100 communities in nine states. In 2018, the company launched a commercial collection program that has more than 300 bar, restaurant, stadium and event space clients.
Last year, Ripple ventured into residential curbside collection with a pilot in the small city of Roeland Park, Kansas. After seeing promising results, the city approved an agreement with Ripple to roll out collection for all single-family homes — plus certain multifamily and commercial accounts — in January 2023. Customers will pay $2.50 for monthly collection in 14-gallon totes, with a grant from The Recycling Partnership subsidizing some of the tote costs. Ripple also received support from a Closed Loop Partners fund, along with a state grant, to upgrade its processing facility in 2021.
Strategic currently processes an estimated 2 million tons of glass per year, with much of that coming from single-stream recycling programs and container redemption systems. The company does some collection of its own, but those services are considered less robust than what Ripple has been offering.
“We're advocates, first and foremost, for single-stream glass recycling and curbside collection,” said Laura Hennemann, Strategic’s senior vice president of sustainability and corporate affairs, while adding that “we need to offer more collection methods than what we have in the past."
Hennemann described Ripple as “masters of the drop-off program” and said she sees potential to scale the company’s approach in other areas as a complement to existing curbside systems. Strategic had been following Ripple’s growth for years, Hennemann said, and did not previously have a processing facility in the area, but it felt Ripple needed time prove out its concept before considering a potential acquisition.
While market options for glass can sometimes be limited by transportation costs associated with the heavy material, it has also seen a boost from the recent push to improve recycled content levels and shift away from certain types of plastic packaging. The U.S. glass industry is looking to boost the material’s recycling rate to 50% by 2030 (up from 31% in 2018), and Hennemann said this transaction will help Strategic better meet the sustainability goals of its customers.
"For glass recycling, it’s no secret that it has its challenges,” she said. "We just want to make sure we can offer the most collection options to make sure that we're being the best partner in the industry that we can be."
Strategic, which has been owned by private equity firm Littlejohn & Co. since 2017, has nearly 50 facilities throughout the U.S., Mexico and Canada. The company’s history dates back to 1896, and it has operated under the Strategic name since 1994. This is its first acquisition since 2015, when the company purchased Reflective Recycling. When asked whether further acquisitions can be expected, Hennemann said “we’re looking at everything.”