POCATELLO — The city of Pocatello implemented a new glass recycling program in June, but years before that initiative happened, Luke and Nikki Bunzow of Pocatello began recycling glass on their own.

Having worked in the restaurant and bar industries for over a decade, Luke, who is Jakers Bar and Grill’s bar manager, and his wife Nikki, who was working as Jakers’ marketing manager, witnessed the large amounts of liquor and beer bottles that were being sent straight to the landfills.

In 2015, inspired by some drinking glassware they saw in Las Vegas made from discarded liquor bottles, the Bunzows started creating some of their own “upcycled” glassware as a hobby. They never dreamt that it would turn into a thriving business called Bunzow Glass, which has been so successful that Nikki had to resign from Jakers to keep up with the demand for their products.

Having been environmentally conscious from the time he was very young, Luke says that he and his wife see their new business as more than just a money-maker, though. They have found that their products have presented many opportunities for them to talk to people about the importance of recycling.

“My mother is a geologist who has worked for a place like (Idaho National Laboratory), trying to help them minimize environmental impact,” Luke said. “I’ve always grown up thinking about the Earth and how we can preserve it and not make so much waste. The waste in America is crazy. In Germany and places like that, you get fined for not recycling your glass and plastic. Here in America, we feel like we can throw whatever we want into the landfill, and that’s an alarming red flag. The real goal of our business has always been just to get people to rethink what they are doing and help out with this effort.”

China’s recent National Sword policy, which significantly reduced the purchasing of the U.S. recyclable waste, is a good indicator that the world isn’t willing to clean up after Americans anymore.

The Environmental Protection Agency states that Americans had a recycling rate of only 24.5 percent in 2015 — meaning that over 75 percent of waste ended up in landfills. And glass is one of the worst waste offenders.

Glass is difficult to recycle. The heavier weight of the glass makes it less cost-effective to transport; glass can only be recycled with like colors; reusable glass bottles must be cleaned and sterilized; and some glass, such as in bakeware and windows, requires expensive equipment to reach the temperatures needed to melt them.

Additionally, glass takes 1 million years to decompose, and the shape of unbroken bottles has a lot of dead space, which then takes up extra space in landfills.

Since Bunzow Glass’s inception, the Bunzows have expanded their product line beyond glassware to include glass jewelry (which Luke says is their hottest seller), candles, “wine” chimes, vases and pendant lights. Bunzow pendant lights proudly hang above the bar in the Sandpiper Restaurant.

Luke and Nikki started Bunzow Glass in the “dark, crawlspace basement” of the 1890s house in which they lived. Luke seized the opportunity to buy some used equipment such as a tile saw and lapidary grinder for cutting and shaping glass from Pocatello High School. They have recently bought a house with a shop in the backyard where they make their products and hope for future expansion into glass mulch for landscaping.

“We want to start tumbling glass on a much larger scale for aquariums, fire pits or flower beds,” Luke said. “It’s a pretty popular trend lately to use glass mulch in landscaping. They pay a lot of money for glass mulch. The issue that we face right now is that tumbling the glass is very, very loud. The glass tumbles and breaks for about two weeks straight. We need to find some way of insulating the sound inside of the shop.”

Luke also said that several people have approached him over trademark issues regarding their use of bottles displaying brands, names and designs.

“We take trash and turn it into art,” Luke said and claims fair use of the marks because he is using the bottles for a different and unique purpose.

The Bunzows sell their products at farmers markets, craft shows and at Pocatello’s Bru House Galilei coffee shop, and they plan on officially launching their online store by the end of the year.

“Our goal is to be online by the holidays,” Luke stated. “We are now so busy that we have got to give this a chance to expand.”

Until BunzowGlass.com is fully running, Facebook — at BunzowGlassCo — is the best way to contact the Bunzows and learn more about their products. Bunzow Glass products will also be available at the Portneuf Valley Crafts and Drafts show at Portneuf Valley Brewing, 615 S. First Ave. in Pocatello, on Nov. 24 from 2 to 7 p.m.