Startup turns non-recyclable plastic into building blocks

Credit: ByFusion.

While Americans do their part and put items in their recycling bins seriously, much of it doesn’t actually get recycled. Follow EPA, of the 267.8 million tons of municipal solid waste generated by Americans in 2017, only 94.2 million tons were recycled or composted. The same report says only 8% of plastic is recycled.

There are many reasons for this sad situation. Until recently, the US exported 16 million tons of plastic, paper, and metal waste to China, essentially outsourcing much of the country’s waste treatment, shifting the responsibility to other countries. Some of this waste has been incinerated by China to fuel the country’s burgeoning manufacturing sector, emitting harmful emissions in the process, while the rest is released into the countryside. and oceans, contaminating water sources, destroying crops and affecting human health. But since 2018, China has banned the import of most plastics and other materials that do not meet very strict purity standards. Without China’s plastic waste market, the US recycling industry would have been laid off, unfortunately lacking in infrastructure.

More, plastic recycling is a major challenge even with a good recycling infrastructure and a coherent federal strategy in the United States – recycling decision-making is now in the hands of 20,000 communities, all of which make their own choices about what to do. whether they recycle or not and what is recycled – by pollution. Improperly placed items or food contamination can prevent large batches of materials from being recycled, and as a result, a large portion of waste that goes to recycling bins must be incinerated or disposed of. into landfills.

ByFusion, a startup from Los Angeles, wants to turn this problem into an opportunity. The company builds giant machines called Blockers that squeeze plastic blocks into standard building blocks called ByBlocks. Each ByBlock measures 16x8x8 inches and comes in three variations: flat, molded with latches so they can be nested, or a combination of the two. Based on Fast company, ByBlocks is about 10 pounds (4.5 kg) lighter than hollow cement blocks.

Credit: ByFusion.

The world loves to use plastic because it is cheap and durable. The same appealing properties are a curse as the plastic reaches the end of its life. But guess where durability and low cost are appreciated? That’s right, the construction industry.

Almost any plastic, except Styrofoam, can be compressed into ByBlock. “Friend [can] literally eat your lunch, throw in [the leftover plastic], create a block, then stick it to the wall,” says Heidi Kujawa, who founded ByFusion in 2017. Fast company.

The only major drawback of ByBlocks is that they are very susceptible to sunlight degradation, but this can be easily overcome by coating their surface or using another weatherproof material. This was demonstrated in the city of Boise, Idaho, where household plastic waste (grocery bags, bubble wrap, fast food containers, etc.) in the local park.

A small building made of ByBlocks. Credit: ByFusion.
Same building after it was treated with paint and decorations. Credit: ByFusion.

Since starting operations, ByFusion has recycled more than 100 tons of plastic, with the lofty goal of scaling up to 100 million tons by 2030. Currently, there is only one full production unit in LA, can process 450 tons of plastic a year, but the startup has partnered with Tucson and Boise, and has plans to expand to the rest of the country. The aim is to have a Blocker in every city in the US, where they can be integrated with existing municipal waste facilities or even run by corporations looking to dispose of their waste. in place.

It’s a commendable task but at $1.3 million for the largest Blocker machine, many willing stakeholders may simply not be able to afford this solution. Plastic waste, on the other hand, has its own costs, often with many hidden costs, so doing nothing with it can actually get more expensive as our plastic problematic compounds over time. Startup turns non-recyclable plastic into building blocks

James Brien

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