This company turns piles of plastic waste into building blocks

By Parija KavilanzCNN Business

(CNN) — Imagine taking piles and piles of unusable, polluting plastic waste and turning it into something constructive?

Plastic pollution is a proliferating and increasingly overwhelming problem. By 2040, estimates indicate that no less than 710 million tonnes of solid plastic waste will clog the earth’s ecosystem, in oceans, rivers and on land.

Los Angeles-based startup ByFusion has a plan for this waste. In fact, the company has created a system to collect the most troublesome type of plastic waste, the one that cannot be recycled.

Founded in 2017, the company has developed a machine that turns single-use plastics into something called “ByBlock”. Similar in size and shape to concrete blocks commonly used in construction, ByBlocks are made entirely from reclaimed plastic waste.

“You’d be amazed at the things that can’t be recycled, meaning anything you touch…stuff like pens, toothbrushes,” Heidi Kujawa, CEO of ByFusion, told CNNBusiness. “What’s interesting about our technology is that we’ve specifically, completely designed our system around low-value, worthless stuff, anything that can’t be recycled.”

While researching plastic waste, Kujawa learned that there are seven types of plastic, only two of which can be recycled. “In the past, it would go to China and other places that would buy it from us,” she said. “That dried up in 2017. Since then, we’ve been burning or burying that plastic.”

ByFusion’s machine, called the Blocker System, converts discarded waste into building blocks without having to sort or pre-wash them, a major hurdle in the plastic recycling process.

After collecting the waste, it only takes a few minutes to shred the plastic and fuse it into solid blocks using steam and compression. Blocks are made without additives or fillers – 22 pounds of plastic creates 22 pounds of ByBlock bricks.

“We modeled our ByBlocks around the dimensions of a hollow cement block. Each is a 16-by-8-by-8-inch unit,” Kujawa said, and each brick weighs about 10 pounds less than a standard cement block.

A cement block has rebar running through it, but ByBlocks uses a method called post-tensioning, which requires a steel rod. As a sustainable option for building materials, repurposed plastic can be used for commercial, residential and infrastructure projects, Kujawa said.

To this end, the company wants to partner with local governments, municipalities and businesses, among other entities. It already sells both its blocking system and its completed ByBlocks, but declined to specify customers or sales figures so far.

“From the start, we knew we wanted to be as carbon neutral as possible. So our block, systems and manufacturing process today is an all-electric, emission-free process,” Kujawa said.

The ultimate goal, she said, is to bring the Blocker system to communities around the world and empower them to reuse plastic waste for use in local construction projects. ByFusion hopes to be able to recycle 100 million tons of plastic by 2030.

“Every community is struggling with plastic waste,” Kujawa said. “Put a blocker [System] is going to help reduce landfills, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce transportation needs, all those other good things. »

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