Every year, anywhere from four to twelve tonnes of plastic ends up in the ocean. By 2050, there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. But the minds behind the ByFusion startup are looking for ways to harness the wasted plastic debris and put it to good use. Sustainable Brands contributor Tom Idle describes RePlast, a building block for construction made of plastic from the minds of New Zealand-based inventor and engineer Peter Lewis and ByFusion CEO Gregor Gomory.

ByFusion takes plastic waste in any shape or form, feeds it into its machine (kind of like a giant washing machine) and creates blocks, known as RePlast. These are the same size and shape as the conventional concrete blocks most commonly used in US construction projects.

But the blocks are not as strong as concrete, and will still compress under extreme weights. Still, the blocks have some exciting thermal properties:

“RePlast blocks have incredible thermal characteristics in terms of sound and heat transfer,” Gomory says. “We envisage using them with normal building frames as fill. Our initial testing shows that they blow traditional cement blocks out of the water.” The blocks require no glues or adhesives, they can contribute to LEED certification for construction and they possess a 95 percent lower greenhouse gas emission footprint when compared to concrete blocks.

For now, Gomory hopes to find new uses for RePlast and open the organization up for funding, and invite architects, developers, builders and those within local authorities to consider how they might use RePlast.

“We don’t want to say this is RePlast – this is how you should use it and you can’t change it,” he said. “We want to see RePlast used in a modular way in low-income housing, for example. There are much smarter people out there than us that will have ideas.”

Read more >