Sometimes it amazes me how many great things can be made out of recycled materials, from bike frames and golf clubs to cookie sheets, computer parts, mailboxes, patio furniture … the list goes on and on.

Now, if you’re like me, you dutifully put clean, empty aluminum cans, glass jars, tin cans and paper (newspapers, magazines, cardboard, junk mail) into recycling bins at home for the city to collect, or take them to a recycling center. Recycling is something I believe in and have done all my life.  So I was pleasantly surprised to run across a 1973 article in Pool News, as we were known back then, about a couple of guys who built a swimming pool made out of recycled aluminum beverage cans.

It seems these two inventors came up with a process they called “Kan-Glas” and applied it to constructing a free-form, inground pool measuring 35 feet long by 18 feet wide. The empty cans were bound together and covered with a protective fiberglass resin coating they’d developed. They said at the time that they thought it was the only pool of its type in the world – and they also had plans for an aboveground pool made from recycled materials.

Can you guess how many cans it took to build the inground pool? (Answer is at the end; no peeking!)

As far as I can tell, inventors Glen Clark and Leonard Olson were based in Wisconsin. Clark was the one who thought of using cans and glass as building materials. A plumber for 30 years, he liked to experiment with resins and came up with the notion of binding cans and bottles together, then coating them with a protective material. He also developed colored resin coatings and used crushed glass in some coatings for a nonskid surface.

Using their patented Kan-Glas product, they also made other items, such as pool enclosures, boat docks, fences, even portable bars. “The possibilities are endless,” Clark said, “for creating useful products from discarded cans and bottles.”

Apparently the inventors' business is no longer in operation, but for a while there, they were making recycling history. Oh, and by the way, if you said it took 37,000 cans to build that pool, you were right.