Tucson is revamping its environmental portfolio with an eye for clean energy, reduced waste

KOLD News 6-6:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 7:33 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The City of Tucson is in the middle of a total revamp of its environmental programs making the city an example of future energy sources, environmental rules and recycling.

Its latest step is trying to bring a company to town which takes non-recyclable plastics and turns them into construction quality building blocks. The company is called ByFusion.

“I think it’s important to note the city of Tucson is the first city on the planet to do anything of this scale and magnitude,” said company CEO Heidi Kujawa.

Which means Tucson is taking a risk, a gamble in its effort to go green in nearly every aspect of everyday life, climate change, renewables, recyclables, and now plastics which cannot be recycled but it appears can be converted into construction grade materials, something new in the half trillion dollar building materials market.

“Interestingly enough, it wasn’t until about 2019 that a splinter subsection of that market popped up and it’s called the alternative building materials market,” Kujawa said. “And so, we’re a leader in that space.”

Kujawa has been working on her concept since 2017.

Non-recyclable plastics clog our landfills and our oceans, garbage which can take up 450 years to decompose. This technology takes any and all plastics and converts into a product which can be used in housing, fencing or any place where concrete blocks are now used.

Tucson sponsored a pilot program which began last August asking people to donate the plastic and sign on to the program. The results far exceeded the goal. Nearly 40 tons of plastic waste and 1,500 people signed up from every zip code in Tucson.

The idea now is to get ByFusion into Tucson. At a recent study session, Ward 6 City Council member Steve Kozachik started the process when he asked the rest of the council to vote on a motion to do so.

“The motion is really pretty simple, is to move the city manager work with ByFusion to finalize deal points to come back to us with a deal sometime in February,” he said.

This comes at a time when the city is having a major disagreement with its recycling contractor which is at the end of a 15 year contract. Following an hour long closed door executive session, the city appears to be looking elsewhere.

“Honorable Mayor, I would ask for a motion to direct the city manager and city attorney to proceed as discussed in executive session to include exploring the city’s options for establishing and owning its own recycling facility,” said City Attorney Mike Rankin.

As to why the issues are bubbling to the surface appears to be a difference of opinion of where the future lies. Tucson says it’s moving forward into, up to now, uncharted territory.

Kozachik made a threat to the company, Republic Services.

“We’ve got a mayor and council that are all in in things that are environmental and climate and you need to get on board or you may find another way to do this,” he said.

A tip to all city of Tucson vendors. Their sights are on future technologies, the past doesn’t cut it anymore.