Tucson signs a deal to recycle non-recyclable plastic

Published: May. 15, 2023 at 8:30 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - Byfusion is officially coming to Tucson, the first city in the country to upscale a program to recycle non-recyclable plastics.

America discards about 51 million tons of plastics into landfills every year. Plastics can’t be recycled and take hundreds of years to degrade.

But now, a company called Byfusion, which is moving operations to Tucson, has found a way to reuse what was unusable up to this point.

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

It took several months of negotiating and paperwork, but Tucson has finally signed on the bottom line and has given the go-ahead for the company to set up shop at the Los Reales Sustainability Campus on the Southside.

The community is so supportive of this,” said Ward 6 City Council member Steve Kozachik, who was instrumental in bringing the company to Tucson. “The challenge has been the city and Byfusion catching up with the community.”

And there’s a lot of catching up to do. Nearly 80 tons of plastic has been dropped by the community at the Ward Six office since last August, and it’s growing quickly. “The pile is growing by the hour,” Kozachik said. “I’m putting four tons a week just in the ward six roll-off.”

Under the terms of the agreement, Tucson will build a structure for Byfusion at the campus to manufacture the blocks. In exchange, Tucson will receive 10% of the blocks.

Several retailers in Tucson have already stepped up and have signaled an interest in displaying and selling them in their stores.

So instead of tons of plastics clogging the landfill, where it could sit for generations, it will be used to make plastic blocks that can replace cinder blocks at a lower cost.

“If you’re building with cinder blocks, you have to go hire a mason, you have to buy concrete, you have to lay the blocks, you have a wait time and all of that,” Kozachik said. “With by blocks, you and I can build a wall in your backyard in an afternoon.”

Any concerns the blocks will degrade over time should be allayed by the fact that the plastics themselves are made so that they can take a thousand years to degrade in a landfill.

“Because this material is intended not to break down, that’s one of the compelling challenges the world is seeing right now, because it’s designed not to degrade or go away,” Kujara said. “So that one of the attributes of the building material is it doesn’t breakdown or go away.”

While Tucson is the first to scale up the manufacture of building materials, it likely won’t be the last. Depending on the program’s success, others are waiting in the wings. “I know Phoenix is watching us, Chicago is, Lynchburg, Virginia, cities in the southern part of California,” according to Kozachik. “They’re watching us do this and they will use our model to scale up their own programs.”

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