The ocean is filled with garbage. It washes up on shore, it coagulates into floating garbage patches, and it ends up in the stomachs of more than half the world’s sea turtles as well as nearly all of its marine birds at one point or another. More than 300 million tons of plastic trash is generated each year, but less than 8 percent of that waste is recycled and as much as 12 million tons ends up in the ocean. According to a report from the World Economic Forum released in January, if we keep producing plastics at predicted rates and continue to improperly dispose of them, plastics in the ocean will outweigh fish pound for pound by 2050. However, By Fusion has a novel idea that may soon eliminate plastic waste.
Through a process known as Rep last, plastic debris is fed into a machine and compressed into blocks that are the size and dimensions of common concrete building blocks. The Rep last blocks can also be customized to fit whatever specific size the project calls for and comes in density weights from 8 to 27 pounds. This process permanently repurposes the plastic rather than recycling them to create more plastic products that could end up in the ocean all over again. In fact, the process of creating Rep last is even simpler than recycling as it works for all types of plastics and doesn’t require washing beforehand.
“We realized that in order to start making a difference for our planet or environment, we needed to act now,” said Gregor Gomory, CEO of By Fusion. “Every year millions of tons of plastic end up in the ocean. We have the technology to process it in an environmentally sensitive way and put it to use in local communities.”
Rather than pay to ship plastic to a reprocessing facility, the machine that creates Rep last blocks is mobile and can be hauled in a flatbed truck. By Fusion’s website describes the process of creating Rep last as a nearly 100 percent carbon neutral, non-toxic manufacturing process. Compared to traditional concrete blocks, the Rep last blocks create 95 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions and can help improve the eco-friendly status of building projects as well as contribute to their LEED certification.
Within the US, Rep last is a fit-for-purpose material that can be used to make non-inhabited structures such as warehouses, sound barriers, rest areas and roadway projects. Outside of the US, Rep last can be used to build single story homes and other inhabited structures. While it can be used for various construction projects, the thermal insulation properties make the blocks ideal for use in road projects or fill-in building frames.
“Rep last blocks have incredible thermal characteristics in terms of sound and heat transfer,” said Gomory. “We envisage using them with normal building frames as fill. Our initial testing shows that they blow traditional cement blocks out of the water.”
To obtain the plastics necessary to create the Rep last blocks, By Fusion decided to partner up with an alliance of non-profits already trying to combat ocean waste on beaches around the globe. Their first project will focus on Hawaii, where the company has partnered up with Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii (SCH) to accumulate and process plastic that would otherwise be harmful to the Hawaiian Archipelago, which is home to coral reefs and more than 7,000 marine species.
“When we spoke with SCH and learned about what was happening in the protected area, we realized that we could contribute a viable way to process the plastic collecting on the islands and reef systems,” said Gomory. “This area is much too important to write off as a victim of our broken waste management system—the plastic has got to be contained.”
To complete that first project, By Fusion is using Indiegogo to try to raise $250,000. The funds collected will also go toward completing the required US testing in order to get Rep last listed as an approved building material.
In addition to that, the company needs to upgrade its current pilot machine to increase the amount of blocks that can be produced per day from 7,000 to 10,000. The first commercial By Fusion machine is expected to be completed by May of 2017. At the time of writing this article, the company had raised $30,649, 12 percent of their ultimate goal