California-based Arqlite processes unrecyclable plastic waste into artificial gravel, avoiding the use of natural quarry aggregates and boulders in the production of light concrete with a low CO2 footprint and for installing drainage beds for construction and landscaping.
CEMEX Ventures says its alliance with Arqlite offers an innovative solution around the construction industry's circular economy by giving a second life to plastic and reducing the carbon footprint and operating costs of handling and producing construction materials such as aggregates and concrete.
Arqlite began its research and development process in Argentina in 2016. It has developed a technology that allows most of the plastic waste to be recycled instead of disposal at a landfill or polluting the environment.
The company claims the light aggregates it produces represent a significant advance in sustainable construction, multiplying thermal and acoustic insulation by ten times compared to mineral aggregates and offering better construction quality and higher energy conservation.
The aggregate is three times lighter than stone, making it suitable for low CO2 concrete that is also intended to reduce required structural supports and to significantly lower transportation costs. The low thermal conductivity of plastic reduces its reaction to extreme temperature variations and, therefore, the possibility of fracturing or altering the concrete mix.
One million plastic bottles are purchased every minute, and 500 billion plastic bags are used annually. In addition, eight million tons end up in oceans every year, threatening marine life. CEMEX Ventures and Arqlite say their low-cost technological solution can play a part in addressing this issue and is capable of processing the vast majority of plastic waste as raw material. Due mainly to the lack of environmental awareness and existing technical limitations, it is estimated that only 7% of the 300 million tons of plastic waste generated is finally recycled.
This investment by CEMEX Ventures is part of its parent company's ambition to deliver net-zero CO2 concrete to all of its customers globally by 2050. The Arqlite solution uses practically all types of plastics as raw material, preventing them from ending up in landfills or unsustainable destinations. "Plastic waste processing is a global problem with no large-scale solution so far," said Cristina Aparicio, head of CEMEX Ventures investment in Arqlite.
"We believe that, due to the large volume of material used by the construction industry, we can recycle much of this plastic waste, making us a solution to this problem, while generating construction materials with better functionality and a lower carbon footprint. That is why this investment has a twofold mission: to help mitigate the great problem of plastic waste and, simultaneously, to produce construction materials with a low CO2 footprint." Sebastián Sajoux, CEO and founder of Arqlite, said, "Our technology can become a key player in this large market industry. We have developed a large-scale solution to a large-scale problem."