ByFusion, an equipment supplier based in Los Angeles, is selling a modular system that processes low-grade mixed plastics into construction products.
The California company supplies the system, which is a simple design that uses a shredder, conveyor and a type of press. The aim is to help cities develop a local end use for low-grade plastics.
The system can use almost any combination of low-grade, contaminated scrap plastics, which don’t need to be washed or pre-processed before going into the ByFusion line. The result is a dense, compressed product the company calls a ByBlock, which is suitable for a wide range of construction projects.
“It’s very straightforward, extremely transparent,” said Heidi Kujawa, CEO of ByFusion. “There’s no mixing, no aggregates, no fillers. It’s just plastic waste, any kind of format.”
The company has supplied its ByBlock construction materials in a handful of projects, and it is currently in talks with multiple municipalities to supply the equipment for local processing.
Simple process, varied feedstock
ByFusion was active in the early 2000s but the company experienced challenges at the time and didn’t progress. Around 2017, Kujawa took over leadership of the company and revived the dormant patent for the company’s technology.
The company is built around a goal to provide an outlet for plastics with challenging markets. Kujawa noted that the recycling industry, particularly on the sortation side, is constantly having to adapt to a changing packaging stream, which can be a struggle.
ByFusion has a goal of “enabling a municipality to take its own waste and create a commodity product that can be consumed by them to support infrastructure and community demands,” Kujawa said.
The company’s base units are the Community Blocker, which is housed in a 40-foot shipping container and is designed for use by smaller materials recovery facilities (MRFs) or other waste management facilities, and the Industrial Blocker, designed for larger MRFs.
The systems come with a conveyor and shredders, which prepare the plastic and feed it into the blocker unit. Here, the plastic is compressed to form the dense construction material.
The ByFusion system can handle almost all mixed plastics generated in the residential recycling stream.
“The unique problem that our system solves is, you literally can throw anything into the system,” Kujawa said. “No two ByBlocks are the same. We don’t measure anything, you don’t have to sort anything, you don’t have to clean anything, you don’t have to pre-process anything.”
The only limitation is polystyrene, which doesn’t fuse well with other materials, Kujawa explained. It’s considered a contaminant, although small amounts are acceptable.
The smaller Community Blocker unit can process 30 tons of plastic per month, assuming one eight-hour work shift. The Industrial Blocker unit starts at 90 tons per month and can be scaled up, through its modular design, at intervals of 30 tons per month.
The standard Blocker units are all electric, and they use steam and compression during the processing phase. The company does offer natural gas and low-emissions hybrid units that are suitable for facilities that don’t have consistent electric power.
End uses across the construction space
ByFusion previously supplied some of its construction materials for a project in Puhi, Hawaii, where the blocks were used to build an athletic pavilion. The blocks were also used to construct a lifeguard tower in Manhattan Beach, Calif.
Kujawa said the ByBlocks are a versatile product that are suitable for a wide range of general utility applications in the construction industry.
“It spans everything from landscaping and retaining walls to residential products,” Kujawa said.
She said one key concern for the company was ensuring the product has cost parity with existing building materials. Kujawa, who has a background in the construction sector, said sustainable building materials often carry a price premium over traditional options.
When customers are considering a hollow cement block or a ByBlock, Kujawa said the company wanted to make sure “that it was a moral decision not one that comes from economics.”
ByFusion is working with the city of Boise, Idaho to supply the Blocker system to that city, which collects hard-to-recycle plastics through the Hefty EnergyBag program. The city has struggled with outlets for those materials, after former downstream outlet Renewlogy stopped processing those plastics.
The ByFusion-Boise project was among a list of projects receiving support from the Dow Business Impact Fund.
ByFusion is also working with the city of Tucson, Ariz. to potentially bring a Blocker unit to that city.
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