Tucson ready to to lead the country into the future of plastics recycling

KOLD News 6-6:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 7:06 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News) - Tucson’s Ward 6 City Council member Steve Kozachik has fully embraced the idea that there’s just way too much plastic being dumped into the landfills and oceans, plastic which needs to be recycled not discarded. He believes he’s found the solution and wants to bring it to the Arizona desert.

There’s a company in California called ByFusion which has discovered a process which takes all plastics and turns them into construction grade building materials, in this case building blocks.

They are about the same size as the cinder blocks used in construction, but they appear to be much more durable.

Kozachik has been collecting discarded plastics since August in a single roll off behind his Ward 6 office on First Street. So far, he’s collected 42 tons and is now getting two tons a week from all over the Tucson valley.

He sends the collected plastic to ByFusion in California, 20 tons at a time, and the company sends him back 20 tons of plastic blocks.

He’s been using them around town to build benches in Himmel Park, walls around trash enclosures, flower pots and perimeter walls.

But that’s not the limit. Tiny homes for the homeless or transitional housing for veterans to name some others.

“If you can build it with a block you can build it with these things as well and you can do it less expensively,” Kozachik said.

What makes this even more attractive is, it’s all plastics. As anyone who has attempted to recycle plastics knows, there are many types of plastics which can’t be recycled and end up in landfills which make take up to 450 years to degrade.

This process takes “all” plastics. There is no sorting of what can and can’t be recycled. Just dump it in the bin and it can be reused.

Kozachik now wants to take it to the next step – inviting ByFusion to Tucson to start manufacturing the blocks here.

“So they’re totally committed to moving here,” he said. “And next Tuesday my expectation is the council is going to approve the motion of getting the city manager to sit down and finalizing the deal points.”

Next Tuesday, at the Tucson City Council study session, Kozachik will try to sell the idea to his colleagues.

“I fully expect the city to embrace the idea of let’s find a productive use for this plastic,” he said.

Tucson will be the first city in the country to commit to the large scale operation of these plastic blocks but will do so under the prying eyes of many others who have also expressed an interest. “Chicago, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, several cities in California, Phoenix,” he said.

The company founder and CEO, Heidi Kujawa said she will be in Tucson next week for a presentation to the city and will hold a Q & A session with the public on Wednesday at the Ward 6 office at 5:30 p.m.

She also said the interest has spread internationally especially to Africa and Europe, especially countries which are more environmentally sensitive.