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From plastic to building blocks: Tucson will waste less, repurpose more

Updated: May. 16, 2021 at 11:05 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -The City of Tucson is leading the nation with its latest zero waste initiative. Tucson could soon become the first city in the U.S. to turn everyday plastic into construction material.

City Council members directed the City Manager’s Office to draft a plan to purchase a By Fusion blocker. The machine uses extreme heat to melt plastic bags, packaging and containers into building blocks. The blocks look like large, colorful Legos. No cement or mortar is needed, however, rebar is required to secure the blocks.

The building blocks can be used for just about any project; from putting up walls to ramadas.

At a cost of $1.3 million, Steve Kozachik, who represents Ward 6, says the blocker machine invests in the planet. He also expects it will pay for itself.

“One of the challenges with any construction right now is material cost escalation,” said Kozachik. “Material costs are going up by 20%, 30%, 40% a month. This is a situation where the city is going to get on board with self-producing our own construction products. The more we use it, the quicker it pays itself back. The blocker machine that we are looking at can run 90 tons of plastic through a month. So, we go to the private market and have to buy 90 tons of cinderblock, this would pay for itself instantly.”

In early January, Tucson began crushing glass bottles into sand. The sand is being used to make concrete for road crews and sandbags for the monsoons season.

Kozachik says the goal is to extend the life of the Los Reales Landfill by repurposing waste.

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