A pilot program to turn non-recyclable plastic waste into colorful building blocks is spreading across the city of Tucson.
Mayor Regina Romero and the city council on May 9 approved a four-year service deal with BiFusion, a Los Angeles-based company that converts plastic waste into building materials. With this partnership, the city of Tucson will advance its goal of “moving beyond the traditional landfill model and into an era of renewable waste-to-asset activities,” the agreement states.
ByFusion began partnering with Tucson’s 6th Ward about 10 months ago to collect and process non-recyclable plastic. Waste is collected in bright orange 22-cubic-yard containers behind the building, picked up by City Environmental Services trucks, and emptied at the Tank Speedway Recycling Landfill. There, Tank’s packs the waste into he 12-ton loads and transports it to California, where ByFusion can convert the waste into blocks.
ByFusion builds the block in Tucson. The city signed a $1 million contract and will pay an additional $2.4 million to build a facility at the Los Reales Sustainability Campus, where the company will deploy a blocker machine called the Micro Diversion Platform. We plan to operate it.
For now, the plastic must be left at drop points in the city, but the company is also considering offering a curbside pickup service for residents.Anything that is difficult to recycle plastic waste, Numbers from 3 to 7 that cannot be put in the blue box can be deposited there. Styrofoam is not included in the listing.
Due to the success of the pilot program, the city has added two more programs. drop off site Located at the Ward 4 Office at 8123 E Poinciana Drive and at Fire Station 15 at 2002 S Mission Road. Along with the Los Reales facility, the three locations will continue to accept non-recyclable plastic from residents once the blocker machines arrive.
Tucson Deputy Mayor and Sixth District Councilman Steve Kozachik said the blocker could be up and running before Christmas.
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Community participation achieved
A few years ago, Kozachik launched a new recycling program for the shattered glass behind the District 6 office. The program has grown into a community-wide glass collecting program. One voter involved asked if he considered addressing non-recyclable plastics as well.
“Everything in the waste stream is a potential resource. It just needs to be found in the right niche at the right time, at the right price, to be useful,” says District 6. said Val Little, a resident of Tucson and chairman of Tucson’s Groundwater Advisory Board.
She’d been following recycling initiatives and news for years, but when she read about ByFusion, she decided to pitch the idea to Kozachik. It was common sense technology in a Tucson alley, she said. The results of the pilot also showed that.
The pilot program launched in August 2022 with the goal of collecting 20 tons of waste and obtaining 500 signatures of support from voters. By early December, 35 tons had been collected and about 1,000 signatures had been collected.
Kozaczyk said looking up the zip codes of those who signed the endorsement showed all zip codes in Pima County.
“That means people are driving in from Oro Valley, Marana, Green Valley, unincorporated Pima County and the top of Mount Lemmon,” he said.
“We hit the point.
The city collected more than 80 tons in total at three locations. The parliamentary vote on the deal was unanimous.
“It’s created a community connection, not only with residents, but also with staff from environmental services and other departments affected,” Little said.
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On a recent morning, Jeremy Bower rolled a 32-gallon trash can into a container behind the District 6 office. A few days ago he read that the program would be implemented city-wide, so he immediately started sorting and storing plastics and drove to deliver them.
In the space of 20 minutes, eight other vehicles stopped to unload.
“Of course it takes effort to get here, but for me it’s worth it,” said Jennifer Tuttle. “People don’t realize how much[plastic]waste there is. It feels so good to make something more productive out of it. I love it.”
She doesn’t really care if curbside pickup is available, but believes it will increase compliance and participation.
Manny Carrillo drives 16 miles to deliver all kinds of recyclables to District 6. Because he lives outside the city service area, he used to pay companies to take his garbage and recyclable waste. He said it was prompted by a truck driver who said, “We pay for recycling, but it’s not actually recycled, it’s being sent directly to a landfill.” He said that he began to bring it to He said he still does this every week to keep his wife happy.
Participant response was so positive that Tanks Speedway Recycle and Landfill received approximately 95 tons of bread bags, coffee lids, disposable bags, Bubble wrap, snack packaging, etc. were accepted. They packed about 20 tons and shipped them to Los Angeles, so ByFusion can turn that into 1,200 blocks. The city worked with them to build new benches and outdoor planters in Himmel Park.
Operations manager Todd Pamey said the ship is ready to go with about 12 tons more compacted and wire-wrapped, and five more. The rest are still exposed.
Pamey said the program’s efforts to bypass plastic, keep it out of landfills, and turn that material into new products are “amazing”. Tanks are used to receive and sort plastics 1 and 2, PET and HDPE, and cardboard. It will then be sent to a recycling facility. However, recycling prices have just plummeted since China imposed a national sword policy.
Any cargo still in the tank is sent to Los Angeles to make a new block. Kozaczyk said the city already has a plan. They would build a perimeter wall at the University of Arizona, expand the Sister Jose Women’s Center, build a saddlery room at Therapeutic Riding in Tucson, and build new park benches and ramadas.
The Zero Waste group of local grassroots nonprofit Sustainable Tucson, founded in 2006, appreciates efforts to divert waste from landfills, but the city and Arizona are the root cause of plastic pollution. He said he expected more to tackle overproduction and consumption.
Single-use plastic bans are still illegal in Arizona. About a decade ago, the city of Bisbee was threatened with $2 million in lost state tax revenue if it implemented a new ordinance removing plastic bags from grocery stores.
Working group chair Kevin Greene wants the city of Tucson to work with local businesses and agencies to pilot reusable and refillable container systems and invest in zero-waste education. said.
“Unfortunately, the city puts too much emphasis on downstream waste management research,” Green said. Such solutions produce low value products and do not address waste generation. “We need to do more on upstream solutions to the plastics problem.”
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ByBlock end uses and markets
The Micro Diversion Platform (MDP) uses steam and compression to produce 22-pound blocks. No additives are used and there is no need to sort or clean the non-recyclable plastics you get. One of the main challenges with traditional plastic recycling is that contamination with food debris and other residues can send the entire waste to landfills.
Pursuant to the agreement, BiFusion will give the city 10% of the new blocks produced by Tucson’s blockers.
The company plans to develop three revenue streams in Tucson by selling remaining blocks to the construction market, providing curbside pickup services to residents, and entering commercial agreements with local businesses, shopping centers and businesses. is.
Kozaczyk said he introduced ByFusion to retailers including Costco, Roadhouse Cinemas, Poly Print and Ace Hardware.
“There is real opportunity and value in terms of being able to recover as much plastic as possible and prevent it from being burned or buried commercially.”,” ByFusion Chief Revenue Officer Vaughan Stanford said:
“That’s where the biggest commercial impact is,” Stanford said. “But there are also opportunities for residency. ”
Ideally, Stanford said the blocks it produces in Tucson would stay in Tucson. ByBlocks is used in many outdoor buildings and landscaping, but the company is promoting its use in architecture as well. One of the end uses, Standford said, is ancillary units, such as a two-bedroom, one-bath home being built in Flagstaff. ByFusion recently received a Sustainability Award from the Los Angeles Building Council, USA.
Tucson is the first city to sign a service agreement with ByFusion, but the company has already been providing the same service in the greater Boise, Idaho area for two years. The difference is that Tucson collects the waste through three drop-off points, so the waste flows directly into the blocker.
In Boise, ByFusion partnered with Dow and the Hefty ReNew program to provide residents with a special pick-up service that turns plastic into bricks. To continue operations in the region, ByFusion entered service agreements with Reynolds Consumer Products and Dow on January 9.
The company also plans to launch pilot projects in other cities.
“Boise and Tucson are the least advanced, but we expect maybe three more and three or four more to come online by the end of the year,” he said, declining to disclose the other four agreements. .
“The biggest challenge for us is the number of microdiversion platforms we are building that allow us to make blocks.”
Stanford said it may continue to expand beyond Tucson at some point.
“The City of Phoenix itself can support multiple MDPs. Tucson, if we stand up and stand up, maybe even support another MDP. and expand.”
Clara Migoya covers environmental issues for the Republic of Arizona and As Central.Send your tips and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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