ByBlocks by ByFusion

overall rating:

2.5

planets

Desiree Izecksohn
7/26/2021
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The statistics displayed on ByFusion’s website are very scary: less than 9% of plastic is recycled per year and by 2050 there’ll be more plastic than fish in the ocean. Given this Wall-E-like scenario, it’s great seeing initiatives like ByBlock to recycle the unrecyclable.

They developed a technology to turn plastic into building blocks and envision recycling 100 million tons of plastic by 2030. Given that there were 9 billion tons of plastic produced since 1950, we will need more entrepreneurs with the same mindset to clean the planet.

Overall, ByBlocks seem like a better alternative to concrete, not only in terms of sustainability but also performance. Each pound of ByBlock is a pound less of plastic wandering around, so their business model is inherently sustainable. I didn’t give them a full rating because I would like more transparency about the production process.

What it's made of:

3

According to their website, ByBlocks can be made of any type of plastic and it's the first of its kind. Every ByBlock uses 22 lbs. of plastic that would otherwise go to a landfill or be incinerated. They are stronger than concrete, as in they don’t crumble when thrown into the ground or receiving a hit. One downside seems to be that the wall's height cannot be much taller than 8’, at least not with extra reinforcement.

With some quick research, I found that “the production of cement is responsible for 5–8% of global carbon dioxide emissions”, and cement is an ingredient of concrete, so using ByBlocks instead of concrete would be benefit the construction and the environment.

How it's made:

1.5

ByFusion breaks the production process down into three simple steps: 1- discarded plastic is collected; 2- plastic is shredded; 3- plastic is superheated and fused into byblocks. But this is too simple. The website does not offer more information that is crucial to analyze the sustainability aspects.

There is no data about the amount of water used in production, if they created a system to have all the water stay in a loop, or a comparison to water use/waste in concrete production. Furthermore, since ByBlocks are superheated, does this part require burning fossil fuels or can it be done with renewable energy? They claim their product produces “41% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than concrete blocks”, but don’t display more details. Another very important piece of information that is missing is about the release of microplastics during production and use in construction. Has ByFusion looked into that at all?

There is other information however, for example that these blocks don’t require any glues or adhesives to build with and are highly durable. There is also no waste, since any residual material during production can be put back into the production chain. Furthermore, any loose pieces during construction can be sent back to the factory to be reused.

ByBlocks are not intended to be the sole material used to build a house, so finishes such as stucco and drywall are needed. It would be nice to see this company do environmentally conscious versions of these materials as well.

Who makes it:

3

The founders of ByFusion believe that plastic in and of itself is not an issue, the problem is actually the lack of a plan for using it after being discarded. Given the hazards that come with extracting oil (e.g. spills), and having refineries installed at underprivileged communities, I would not say I completely agree. Despite that, I am glad they are doing something about a major environmental threat.

ByFusion does not sell the building blocks, but the machines that make them. They work with MRFs (Materials recovery facilities), corporations and municipalities. This seems to be a smarter business model than selling the blocks themselves, because this way more people can use this technology, which means that more plastic will be saved.

It is great they work with MRFs because the main impediment for recycling plastic is the lack of a market to buy the recycled pellets. By attributing an economic value to any type of discarded plastic, they incentivize MRFs to accept all plastic waste, not just a few ones.