A lifeguard tower built on Bruce’s Beach in Manhattan Beach is not just another oceanfront lookout. The tower was built with bricks made from discarded plastic. While most recycled plastic uses require a specific chemical makeup, the innovative ByFusion bricks used Saturday can be made with any mix of recyclable plastics — Nos. 1 through 7 — except for polystyrene. They don’t need to be pre-washed or sorted, according to company literature. And these “ByBlocks” are stronger than cinder blocks and can be similarly covered with paneling or stucco.
“The waste management-recycling industry is in a critical state and must change to meet the shifting market,” ByFusion CEO Heidi Kujawa said of the opportunities driving the company’s vision. “We’re entering the market at a pivotal time.”
Less than 10 percent of plastics worldwide are recycled and with China phasing out the import of recyclables, the market is rapidly shrinking. In California, plastics Nos. 3 through 7 are increasingly ending up in the landfill because of the dwindling international demand and the lack of domestic markets.
The state’s landfill diversion rate was 50 percent in 2014. But that was down to 42 percent by 2017 (the last year for which statistics are available) because of increased consumerism generated by a strong economy and a shrinking demand for recyclables.
Sacramento lawmakers are considering several additional measures to reduce plastic use and increase domestic recyclable markets, but ByFusion’s machines that transform scrap plastic into construction bricks are a step ahead of the new laws.