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New business turns unrecyclable plastics into sustainable material

Global Goals & Global Society
New business turns unrecyclable plastics into sustainable material

Consumer brand owners were receiving assistance from consulting firm B-Green to reduce waste going to landfills, but the brands' packaging lacked a diversion option. In order to create a recycling method and final product, B-Green got to work.

The outcome was the Argentine business Arqlite, which most recently triumphed in the New York City Curb-to-Market Challenge (CTMC). The business has developed a method for turning multi-layer plastics—which are difficult to mechanically recycle—into plastic gravel, which can be used in place of rock in landscaping and construction projects.

Arqlite will receive a $250,000 investment as a co-winner of the CTMC (the other winner was the circular economy design consulting firm Anthropocene.Design). Additionally, it will have access to Chris Graff, a manufacturing entrepreneur who founded and funded CTMC, for advice.

According to Sebastian Sajoux, CEO of Arqlite, the company was incubated by Fledge LLC in Seattle before being spun off from B-Green in 2014. Fledge is a global network of venture capital firms and business accelerators.

Research and development persisted, according to Sajoux, until lab-scale equipment was added in 2017. He collaborated with engineers from Argentina's Instituto Nacional de Tecnologa Industrial (INTI) on technical R&D. Arqlite received assistance from Stoneway Concrete in understanding the demands of its target market, the construction industry. overcoming a difficult material

Arqlite accepts post-consumer laminated plastics from materials recovery plants and production trash from packaging manufacturers (MRFs). The company uses multi-material flexible packaging as its feedstock, which most reclaimers can't process due to contamination and the difficulties of separating various polymers or layers of aluminum. Arqlite charges a recycling fee that’s competitive with landfilling costs, Sajoux said.

"Plastics are categorised and mixed in precise ratios, then heated and treated using a proprietary technology that makes them compatible and capable of merging into a homogeneous new polymer compound," Sajoux said in describing the technology.

Aluminum or other components, in trace amounts, are used in the final product, which is made of polymerization of ethylene (PE), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and/or polypropylene (PP). The advantages of the plastic gravel, according to Arqlite, include its low weight, ability to insulate against heat and sound, controllable size, affordable price, and other features. However, the business advises against adding gravel to concrete for use in structural applications like building columns.

In 2018, Arqlite established its first substantial facility in Buenos Aires, Argentina. According to Sajoux, the factory is now generating 100 tons of plastic gravel per month but is striving to increase that amount to 200 tons per month. Customers purchased the first gravel items early this year.

Since then, "every gravel produced has been sold," he claimed. Arqlite is sure that when manufacturing ramps up, contracts will be signed with bigger businesses.

The business is currently preparing to open an office in New York City. The projected monthly production capacity for the American facility is 1,500 tons.

Arqlite has created upcycling technologies to turn previously unrecyclable plastics into effective, low-carbon, and ecologically friendly products and materials. If not recycled, these plastics would have ended up in waterways, landfills, incinerators, and other places where they would have contaminated the environment for millennia. Arqlite Gravel, one of its flagship products, is a resilient, secure, and environmentally friendly substitute for conventional gravel that directly contributes to the reduction of plastic pollution while improving sustainability in the building sector. Progress happens when civil society comes together to demand change to achieve the same global goals.

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