Every cloud has a silver lining: Los Angeles-based company creates building blocks from plastic waste

Imagine taking a mountain of rubbish and a pile of earth-polluting unusable plastic waste and turning it into something useful. Plastic pollution is a growing and increasingly serious problem. Experts estimate that by 2040, up to 710 million tons of solid plastic waste will litter the earth's ecosystem in oceans, rivers and on land. But Los Angeles-based startup ByFusion has a plan for that. Writes about it CNN.

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The company has created a system to collect the most vexing types of plastic waste - materials that cannot be recycled.

Founded in 2017, the company has developed a machine that turns single-use plastic into something called ByBlock. It is similar in size and shape to concrete blocks commonly used in construction. ByBlock blocks are made entirely from recycled plastic waste.

"You'll be amazed at the things that can't be recycled, which is basically everything you use every day - pens, toothbrushes, and more," said ByFusion CEO Heidi Kujava. “The most interesting thing about our technology is that we deliberately designed our system entirely around low-value, useless things that cannot be recycled.”

While studying plastic waste, Kujava learned that there are seven types of plastic, of which only two can be recycled. 

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“It used to go to China and other places where it was bought,” she explained. But in 2017 it stopped. We have been burning or burying this plastic ever since.”

ByFusion's machine, called the Blocker System, turns discarded waste into building blocks without the need for sorting or prewashing, a major hurdle in the plastic recycling process.

Once the waste has been collected, it only takes a few minutes to grind up the plastic and fuse it into solid blocks using steam and compression. The blocks are made without additives or fillers - 22 pounds (10 kg) of plastic make 22 pounds (10 kg) of ByBlock bricks.

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“We modeled our ByBlocks on the dimensions of a hollow cement block. Each of them measures 16 inches (40 cm) by 8 inches (20 cm) by 8 inches (20 cm), Kujava noted. “And each brick is about 10 pounds (4,5 kg) lighter than a standard cement block.”

There is rebar going through the cement block, but ByBlocks uses a method called post-tensioning, which requires a steel rod. As a sustainable building material option, repurposed plastic can be used in commercial, residential and infrastructure projects, Kujava says.

To this end, businesses want to partner with local governments, municipalities and corporations among other organizations. The company is already selling both its Blocker System and completed ByBlocks, but has so far declined to list customers or sales volumes.

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“We knew from the start that we wanted to be as carbon neutral as possible. Therefore, our unit, our systems and our manufacturing process are emission-free processes today,” emphasized the CEO.

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

“Every community is fighting plastic waste,” Kujava said. “The implementation of the Blocker System will help minimize landfills, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce transportation needs and much more.”

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