Although many believe plastic's recyclable properties reduce pollution and alleviate the trash crisis, only 9% of the 42 million tons of plastic used in America each year recycles. Some blame a deficiency in recycling infrastructure. The truth is, recycling facilities can't reclaim most plastics—even if fabricators print that triangular symbol on the bottom.
ByFusion, a start-up, intends to attack the problem head-on; they use a combination of steam and compression to turn mounds of plastic—even unwashed, non-recyclable material—into building blocks called ByBlocks. Builders can use the blocks, similar in size and shape to cinderblocks, for anything from fences to retaining walls to public terraces.
ByFusion uses patented Blockers, machines that compact plastic into shape. After years of research, ByFusion now functions at full production. They built their first fully operational Blocker location in Los Angeles, where they can process 450 tons of plastic per year. ByFusion plans to build 12 more Blockers around the country.
By 2030 the company intends to convert 100 million tons of plastic. Current cities that use ByBlocks include Boise and Tucson. In Lihue, Hawaii, ByFusion built a pavilion from marine debris and fishing nets at an elementary school.
The blocks maintain about the same strength as similar-sized hollow cement counterparts, but they weigh ten pounds less. However, the sun can damage the blocks without a protective coating; ByFusion says some paints eliminate this issue.
Still, the program is ambitious. Not only will it take enormous infrastructure changes to deliver the plastic waste to the Blockers and haul away the new ByBlocks, but they estimate they will need 9,000 locations to meet their 100 million ton goal.
"Right now, this unrecyclable plastic creates a cost burden across the board," says CEO Kujawa, "and I don't think people realize how much taxpayer dollars go into that cost burden." ByFusion also offers a rental plan for Blockers, starting at $280,000 annually.
Amid the trash crisis, ByBlocks, an American company, plans to relieve the burden by recycling unreclaimable plastics into building materials.