Pilot program turns Boise, ID plastic recycling into a bench”

Good News Notes:

When the Hefty EnergyBag recycling program was announced in Boise about three years ago, it asked residents to separate those hard-to-recycle No. 4-7 plastics into orange bags.

The bags were shipped to a Utah company which planned to chemically deconstruct the plastic into diesel fuel. Equipment problems quickly forced the end of that destination, and ever since, the bags have been sent to be incinerated, producing power for concrete production in Utah.

About 20% of Ada County residents dutifully fill orange bags with about 30 tons each month of hard-to-recycle, No. 4-7 plastics: foam, bubble wrap, plastic grocery bags and most food containers. After nearly two years of incinerating the bags as fuel for concrete production, a new company wants to turn our plastic scraps into building materials.

The Hefty EnergyBag program worked with the city of Boise and Los Angeles-based ByFusion to establish a pilot program last year, diverting several truckloads of plastic away from the incinerator and into a machine called a ByBlocker.

In go the orange bags, and out comes a 22-pound multi-colored plastic block which bears a strong resemblance to a lego.

“It’s a 16”x8”x8” unit,” ByFusion CEO Heidi Kujawa describes. “The exact same physical dimension as a hollow cement block, but it’s about 10 pounds lighter.”

ByFusion’s machines use a combination of steam and compression to create the blocks, which they say have an equal insulating R-value to concrete blocks, but a much better K-value, which means the blocks don’t absorb and radiate heat like concrete does.

Each is a kaleidoscope of single-use plastic.

“Every block is uniquely different. Not in the integrity of the block or how it performs, but in its composition and how it looks. We don’t add any colors to it,” Kujawa said.

The bricks are solid, and the sides, while flat, are not smooth. ByFusion’s process doesn’t require sorting or cleaning.

That’s a huge benefit considering that recycling’s biggest obstacle is often that consumers put inappropriate or dirty items into recycling bins.

Boiseans can see the blocks for themselves at Manitou Park, where a base for a new bench has been constructed from the plastic blocks. The mix of materials is evident, with remnants of yogurt containers, plastic utensils, and even a fully readable barcode visible.

I noticed a piece of corrugated cardboard in another block, soaked from the recent snow. It was ready to flake off the block and join several pieces of loose plastic on the ground. Though perhaps messy, the rough finish doesn’t seem to take away any of the overall durability….”

View the whole story here: https://amp.idahostatesman.com/news/local/community/boise/article257363307.html

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