Hear From Our CEO, Heidi Kujawa

Hear From Our CEO, Heidi Kujawa

Some of my earliest memories are of roaming around my grandfather’s factory looking for scrap metal and wood, finding these hidden treasures under the metal brake or an unattended workbench, and assembling them into some creation that only my inner child knew what to do with. To this day, I’m still drawn to the smell of machine oil soaked floors — the scent of my grandfather’s factory — because it means I’m near something in the process of being built. My thirst for building didn’t stop here. I remember sneaking my Pop’s tools out of the garage so I could disassemble and reassemble one of my sibling’s toys because I wanted to know how it worked — and then hoping to remember the exact location I pulled the tools from so I wouldn’t get caught. 

This early-age tinkering led me to my local bike shop in high school, where I worked part-time building and repairing bicycles. Later on, I started building computers from scratch for fun. And while I eventually anchored myself firmly into a career in technology I never dropped the hammer or stopped working with my hands. I always continued building something on the side to level out the peaks and valleys of working life.

Now, for the first time, my love for technology and construction lives harmoniously under one roof through my new company, ByFusion. We are transforming plastic that litters our oceans and landfills into high-performing, reusable building blocks.

As I write this, there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic already in our oceans. Every day, another 8 million pieces of plastic are added. The magnitude of these numbers is hard to grasp. And because plastic is designed to last forever, it never fully breaks down, pushing marine life and their ecosystems near — and tragically in some cases, already beyond — their breaking points. 

As the world’s plastic consumption continues to increase, ByFusion is showing how this ubiquitous material can be repurposed into the first-ever reusable construction-grade blocks for projects that strengthen our people, our cities, and our communities. ByBlocks, ByFusion’s trademark product, are made entirely from collected unrecyclable plastic that would otherwise be disposed of in our oceans and landfills. As a construction junkie, I am amazed and inspired by the simplicity of our fusion process and ByBlocks ease of use. 

As our company grows and I grow with it, I’m looking forward to sharing this next phase of my journey with you and working with government leaders and partners to reshape the future of plastic waste — and with it, the future of our planet we call home.

Materials Recovery Facilities, ByFusion and Reshaping the Future of Plastic

Materials Recovery Facilities, ByFusion and Reshaping the Future of Plastic

Plastic as a material is relatively inexpensive to manufacture, durable, versatile, and can serve a multitude of beneficial purposes. However, the adverse impact plastic waste is having on our environment is due to the mismanagement of this complex material. Plastic waste has become one of the world’s greatest environmental and economic challenges. Today, humans spend over $120B to create over 311M tons of plastic waste every year and only 8% of plastic is actually recycled¹. The other 92% is either landfilled – clogging up communities’ critical infrastructure, incinerated – contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, or its leaked into our streets and, of course, our oceans and waterways. It is time we re-evaluate the unsustainable relationship society has to plastic in order to facilitate a more financially and environmentally efficient solution. Plastic is not the problem. The lack of proper management of plastic waste is the problem. 

The global plastic recycling industry has been in the spotlight over the last few years due to increasing awareness about the abundant plastic waste problem, carbon emissions issue and the need to reduce them both. This coupled with the recent China ban, which took effect in December 2017, has accelerated the need for new and different solutions to plastic waste. ByFusion is offering such a solution through it’s patented process that converts all types of plastic waste into an advanced building material. 

Ground Zero for Plastic Recycling and Diversion– Materials Recovery Facilities (MRF’s) + ByFusion

Materials recovery facilities are cornerstones for every community when it comes to recycling or diversion of plastic waste. Despite their keystone role in every community, MRFs are often underappreciated and caught in the middle of volatile global recycling markets and regional environmental goals. ByFusion designed its product to give MRFs a critical new tool that increases their resilience to this volatility, creates a critical new revenue source and offers increased agility to meet statewide sustainability goals. Since China’s plastic ban, MRFs and related landfills have been required to find new markets for recycling plastic numbered 3 through 7 or, unfortunately, to sort these materials out of consumer recycling bins and send them to the landfill. This increases labor costs and tipping fees in a business noted for razor thin margins, decreases diversion opportunities and discards decades of consumer training to dutifully sort and recycle their plastics. ByFusion solves these problems for materials recovery facilities and the communities they serve. 

Meet the Blocker and ByBlock

Let’s take a moment to meet the two recycling superstars in the ByFusion ecosystem– the Blocker and ByBlock.

We call the Blocker the “ultimate environmental diversion solution”. To explain it simply, this machine takes plastic waste and converts it into construction-grade building blocks, ByBlocks. The Blocker is designed to be placed and operated in MRFs and plastic producing facilities as their purpose is to “maximize the quantity of recyclables processed, while producing materials that will generate the highest possible revenues in the market.”² Because copious amounts of plastic are being sent to MRFs already, they have the ability to significantly increase the plastic being processed by allocating unrecyclable plastics to the Blocker which then produces the ByBlock (without the costs of sorting and prewashing), a product able to generate increased revenue.

Blockers– Modular and Scalable

The Blocker comes in two primary sizes– Community and Industrial. The Community Blocker is geared toward small recycling operations, community projects, disaster relief/clean-up efforts and mobility, with the capacity to process up to 30 tons of plastic per month. The Industrial Blocker, however, is intended for large scale, industrial installations and can be scaled up or down to meet venue space limitations and almost any plastic volume requirement, processing 90+ tons per month. 

Blocker– How it Works

The Blocker takes any plastic waste– shreds, superheats and fuses it into construction-grade building blocks. ByFusion uses a steam-based compression process that does not melt or degrade the polymers. This process, while cost effective, also generates significantly less greenhouse gas emissions than processing plastic for the landfill or recycling, as well as the production of other construction materials such as concrete (Environmental Protection Industry’s 2019 WARM Report).

The innovative technology which makes up the Blocker, converts any type of plastic, including plastic numbered 3-7, which are among the most difficult to recycle, into a useful, marketable construction-grade building block called ByBlock.

ByBlocks in a nutshell– or plastic clam shell as it were:  

  • Dimensions: 16″ x 8″ x 8″ / 40cm x 20cm x 20cm
  • Weight: 22lbs / 10kg
  • Can be customized to specific densities
  • Doesn’t crack or crumble like concrete blocks
  • Requires no glue or adhesives
  • 41% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than concrete blocks

Let’s Build with the ByBlock

ByBlock’s are versatile, tested and ready for deployment in projects including:

  • Landscaping & Walling: Privacy, sound and retaining
  • Infrastructure & Utility: Sound walls, kiosks, storage sheds, security
  • Parks & Recreation: Pavilions, benches, planters, open space projects
  • Commercial, Residential & Consumer: Accent walls, furniture, modular structures such as sheds, detached office spaces and various other residential projects

The ByBlock can be utilized to improve infrastructure by anyone, eliminating the need for highly skilled, in-demand construction tradesmen/women, opening up a whole new labor field to support construction needs. However, as highlighted above, ByFusion’s business plan is not limited to consumer building needs. ByFusion aims to partner with materials recovery facilities, corporations, waste management companies, and governments to install Blockers on site, allowing them to effectively process excess plastic and create an additional revenue stream through the budding ByBlock market. 

Why Choose ByFusion?

Below are four reasons for MRFs to incorporate a ByFusion Blocker into their technology stack:

ByFusion Increases Revenue Opportunities and/or Lowers Costs:

ByFusion allows MRFs to create saleable construction-grade building products, ByBlock, thus creating a new revenue stream and decreasing the overall cost associated with currently sending this plastic to landfill and paying tipping fees.

Decreases Contamination and Increases Diversion:

Contamination in recycling is a major issue for all MRFs. ByFusion creates systemic incentive to sort what is currently considered a contaminant, bound for the landfill and recovers it as valuable material for construction-grade building blocks.

ByFusion’s Blockers Are Modular:

MRFs come in all shapes and sizes and thus require adaptable, modular technology to custom fit their unique waste volumes and space requirements. Similarly, Blockers are designed to support small facilities and waste streams or scaled to meet the needs of large volumes and expansive facilities.

Meeting Community’s Environmental Goals:

MRFs have the challenging position of meeting regional or statewide waste diversion requirements, yet are subject to the vagaries of national and international waste markets.  ByFusion offers MRFs something no other plastic recovery technology does– the opportunity to locally divert a community’s plastic waste and turn it into a product for building local facilities and structures– true local diversion and local recycling.

Our Dedication to Bettering the Environment and Communities Across the Globe

ByFusion is focused on creating a partner network that solves the global plastic crisis by empowering communities to block their waste in place while leveraging it to solve increasing challenges around job creation, affordable housing and crumbling infrastructure, the support of aggressive waste reduction goals, and supply the local market with an incredibly cost effective, 100% recycled advanced building material. ByFusion is recognized by the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, New York Times, Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas (2019), US Green Building Council Net Zero Accelerator (2019), B Corps Best for the World (2019), 1% for the Planet’s Innovation of the Year (2018) and Waste Dive’s ‘Most Disruptive Innovation of the Year’ Award (2016). As a company, we are dedicated to the healing of Earth and truly believe our patented process is a key component to regenerating the planet and reshaping our relationship to plastic.

Plastic Waste and the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day

Plastic Waste and the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day

Plastic is almost a dirty word in today’s environmental movement as scientists and dedicated organizations continue reporting the detrimental impacts that this multipurpose material has on our ecosystems. From crowding landfills to being found in the stomachs of sea life, it is evident that our current relationship to plastic is not sustainable long term. Our ocean and landfills have hit plastic capacity with an estimated 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in our oceans already¹ and 26.8 million tons of plastic found in landfills reported in 2017², making now a crucial time to mobilize around plastic waste and work towards fostering a renewed relationship to the material. With the 50th anniversary of Earth Day just around the corner, we have the opportunity to spark awareness, galvanize support, and inspire action around the future of plastic.

As we mark this historic Earth Day, we find ourselves in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic that has fundamentally disrupted our social and economic systems in the blink of an eye, forcing the world to act urgently. While the reasons and circumstances were unwelcome and unexpected, it has shown that we can indeed unify as a global community to address a global emergency. We are exercising a new and critical muscle that will strengthen our ability to address another existential threat to humanity– the climate change crisis.

History of Earth Day and the Acceptance of Plastic

Earth Day, celebrated annually on April 22nd, began in 1970 with the purpose of spreading environmental awareness and mobilizing the American public to take a stand against pollution and ecosystem degradation. The idea came from former Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, motivated by the devastating effects of the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Earth Day served to inspire significant milestones within the environmental movement, including the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and catalyzed the passage of important environmental legislation.³

By this time in history, plastic was well integrated into the lives of Americans with household, recreation, furniture, and even clothing items being made out of various types of plastic. However, not all Americans were enticed by the convenience of this magic material. The harmful and long lasting implications of plastic became more apparent when plastic debris was first discovered in the ocean in 1960. This awareness continued to spread as environmental education continued through the 70s. With this in mind, the plastic production industry urged for the implementation of recycling in our waste management system as a way of easing American’s acceptance of the material.Today, recycling remains a primary “solution” that our society relies on for the management of plastic, while in reality, plastic waste continues to rapidly invade almost every aspect of all life forms as recycling falls short of any viable solution to the plastic waste problem.

Types of Plastic and Recycling as a “Solution”

All of this is not to say we must ban plastic altogether, but really we must reset our relationship with plastic. Because plastic is made up of various polymers, both synthetic and naturally occurring, it can take on many forms while maintaining it’s lightweight durability. The seven types of plastic, which you often see labeled by a number inside the recycling triangle on consumer items, include:

  1. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET): commonly used for food and drink containers, packaging, etc.
  2. High Density Polyethylene (HDPE): commonly used for soap containers, insulation, helmets, pipes, etc.
  3. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC): commonly used for furniture, clothing, medical supplies, etc.
  4. Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE): commonly used for machine parts, lids, trash bags, etc.
  5. Polypropylene (PP): commonly used for clothing, surgery tools, packaging tape, bottle caps, etc.
  6. Polystyrene (Styrofoam): commonly used for disposable drink and food containers, and packing materials.
  7. Other (including acrylic, nylon, fiberglass, polycarbonate, polyactic fibers): used for a variety of items such as sports equipment, baby bottles, and electronic parts.

Plastics numbered 3,4,6, and 7 are difficult and rarely recycled, while 1, 2, and 5 can only be recycled about 2 to 3 times before its quality is too poor to manufacture. Furthermore, since China enacted the “National Sword” policy in 2018, banning the import of plastic and other recyclables to their country for processing, more than half of the world has had to scramble for another solution. Needless to say, with China no longer allowing their waste processing facilities to be the dumping grounds of the industrialized world, the amount of plastic going straight to landfills has increased dramatically. It is now up to us to rethink our relationship with plastic and explore alternatives to how we manage it as waste.

COVID-19 Impacts on Plastic Use

The COVID-19 crisis has had a significant effect on the demand of single-use plastic. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The war on plastics is being put on hold as the battle to contain coronavirus ramps up.”¹⁰ It is a common phenomena that environmental efforts are set aside in the wake of disaster response and recovery. Amidst the global pandemic, demand is increasing for plastic bags, single-use utensils, cleaning wipes, hand sanitizer bottles, and plastic water bottles. Additionally, the stay at home order in efforts to stop the spread of the virus has led to an increase in home delivery demands often accompanied by single-use packaging. COVID-19 has prompted the public to think more about where and who has touched their products, leading to a retroactive perspective on the necessity of plastic packaging.

Plastic is deeply woven into every aspect of human life. Recycling has proven to be a band aid, at best, to address the exploding plastic waste problem. Reducing unnecessary plastic use is a worthy plan to decrease the addition of excess plastic into the environment. However, assuming plastic is here to stay for the foreseeable future, we must find a use for today’s plastic that offers this material a long term, sustainable, and useful purpose. Enter ByFusion.

ByFusion– A New Life for Plastic Waste

Driven by a desire to end plastic waste, we launched ByFusion, which has developed the first construction-grade building material made entirely from recycled (and often unrecyclable) plastic waste.

ByFusion is part of the larger movement working to combat climate change through innovative uses of technology. Most commonly installed in a community’s materials recovery facility (MRF), the ByFusion Blocker uses steam and compression to convert all types of plastic waste into a revolutionary building material called ByBlock. ByFusion diverts trash destined for the landfill, repurposes the mixed materials into a consolidated building block, and gives plastic waste a long term, sustainable purpose. ByBlocks can be utilized for everyday structures like sheds, walls and anything else requiring construction-grade building material. Compared to conventional concrete building blocks, ByFusion’s ByBlocks account for 41% less greenhouse gas emissions as per the Environmental Protection Industry’s 2012 report in the Waste Reduction Model (WARM).

Notably, plastic production is not all aimed for single-use products. Plastic has shown to be an excellent material for modern society through its use for life saving medical supplies, transportation needs, electronics, sports, and even energy efficiency.¹¹ As we are on the brink of widespread climate disaster, now is the time to shift plastic production away from convenience and towards essential. Increasing public awareness, pressuring corporations and the government to make changes, and utilizing purchasing power are all necessary tools in the fight against further harmful plastic production. However, the need for a clean-up solution for the current overflowing plastic waste is evident. ByFusion’s model has the potential to alleviate the excess waste already disrupting earth’s ecosystems while society collectively steps away from nonessential single-use straws, take out containers, hygiene bottles, and all other unnecessary uses of plastic. ByFusion offers every community in the world the ability to repurpose their own plastic waste to create valuable building material for municipal projects – truly closing the waste loop and creating local solutions to global problems.

Earth Day: Not Canceled

Although this Earth Day will merit an unusual celebration without marches and festivals, the climate crisis has not been canceled and neither will Earth Day. The 50th anniversary of Earth Day represents 50 years of progress, of environmental awareness, of a movement working to heal our planet.

At ByFusion, we have an ambitious goal: Recycling 100 million tons of plastic by 2030’s Earth Day. We are excited to be part of a global ecosystem of change makers, companies, organizations and agencies who, in the time of COVID and after, are relentlessly pursuing every angle to redevelop our relationship with plastic.

Happy birthday Earth Day, we are grateful to the movements you inspire.

Building for the Future

Building for the Future

THE GARDEN ISLAND | Words & Photos by: Jessica Else | August 1, 2019

PUHI — There’s a new building on Kauai made out of plastic marine debris and plastic household waste.

It’s an athletic pavilion built with blocks that resemble oversized Lego pieces. The debris that was once cluttering shorelines and endangering sea life is providing shade for athletes and onlookers at Island School.

It’s also an example of an innovative way to use the thousands of pounds of plastic gathered on Kauai each month.

Not only is the building the first on Kauai to be made out of the blocks — a product of the New Zealand-based ByFusion Company — it’s the first in the United States.

“This demonstrates to the world how to combat the plastic crisis that’s plagued our oceans,” said ByFusion Company’s Chief Executive Officer Heidi Kujawa, who attended Wednesday’s blessing of the building.

Kumu Sabra Kauka led the ceremony.

“You really raised the bar today,” Kauka said before she began the blessing. “What you see is a beautiful building, but what it represents … (I’m) excited to be the first in Hawaii for something like this.”

The blocks form the walls of the pavilion, and the spaces in between are filled with traditional building materials like rebar, stucco and trusses. The building is about 20 feet in length and is situated by the school’s soccer field.

Each block is made out of shredded, cleaned plastic waste compressed into a solid rectangle at ByFusion’s only processing facility in New Zealand. They’re touted as a cheaper form of construction because they’re lighter and require fewer materials for building.

Stucco covers the plastic blocks, sealing them and the gasses they produce should they decompose.

It’s a pilot project that’s brought together the County of Kauai, Surfrider Foundation, Island School, ByFusion and the island’s construction community.

Carl Berg, senior science adviser for Surfrider Kauai, says the long-term goal is to bring a ByFusion facility to Hawaii. That would bring manufacturing of the blocks closer to home and present a real potential for recycling marine debris in the state.

The cost of that was originally estimated between $1 million and $3 million. However, Kujawa says the cost could be lower.

Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami looked over the blocks and said he’d love to put structures made from the blocks in parks all over the island.

“We want to leave a legacy behind,” Kawakami said. “One thing we don’t want to leave behind is our opala.”

Lifeguard tower built from plastic waste offers glimpse of future

Lifeguard tower built from plastic waste offers glimpse of future

Plastic bricks could create a new use for waste at a time when recycling markets are shrinking

THE DAILY BREEZE | by Martin Wisckol | Photos by Chuck Bennett | June 9, 2019

The lifeguard tower being built Saturday on Bruce’s Beach in Manhattan Beach is not just another oceanfront lookout.

The tower, erected as part of that beach’s World Oceans Day activities, could part of the solution to the scourge of plastic pollution, a large portion of which ends up in the ocean.

That’s because the structure was built with bricks made from discarded plastic.

While most recycled plastic uses require a specific chemical makeup, the innovative ByFusion bricks used Saturday can be made with any mix of recyclable plastics — Nos. 1 through 7 — except for polystyrene. They don’t need to be pre-washed or sorted, according to company literature. And these “ByBlocks” are stronger than cinder blocks and can be similarly covered with paneling or stucco.

“The waste management-recycling industry is in a critical state and must change to meet the shifting market,” ByFusion CEO Heidi Kujawa said of the opportunities driving the company’s vision. “We’re entering the market at a pivotal time.”

Less than 10 percent of plastics worldwide are recycled and with China phasing out the import of recyclables, the market is rapidly shrinking. In California, plastics Nos. 3 through 7 are increasingly ending up in the landfill because of the dwindling international demand and the lack of domestic markets.

The state’s landfill diversion rate was 50 percent in 2014. But that was down to 42 percent by 2017 (the last year for which statistics are available) because of increased consumerism generated by a strong economy and a shrinking demand for recyclables.

Niche product?

Sacramento lawmakers are considering several additional measures to reduce plastic use and increase domestic recyclable markets, but ByFusion’s machines that transform scrap plastic into construction bricks are a step ahead of the new laws.

The company, founded in New Zealand in 2015 and about to open Los Angeles operations, is debuting its technology with plans to make it publicly available by the end of the year. Aside from a portable one-room office built from ByFusion bricks in New Zealand, the Manhattan Beach lifeguard tower and a school pavilion under construction in Kauai are the first structures built using ByBlocks.

Santa Monica-based Heal the Bay, which helped organize a cleanup at Bruce’s Beach on Saturday, applauded ByFusion’s efforts but questioned how big of a recycler it will prove to be.

“I think this is a niche product,” said Emily Parker, a marine scientist with the non-profit environmental group. “I don’t think all our buildings are going to be built from this.”

ByFusion’s Kujawa acknowledged that “not every building will be built using ByBlocks.” But she also said the product has widespread applications and the company would be publicizing possible uses in the months ahead.

Besides end uses for the ByBlocks, the company also is exploring sources for the waste that goes into making them. For instance, the company has teamed with Channel Island Surfboards and Sustainable Surf to explore recycling waste from the surfboard manufacturing process.

“This has the potential to recycle all of the surfboard foam waste in California, thus eliminating one of the biggest waste streams in surfboard manufacturing,” said Kevin Whilden, co-founder of Sustainable Surf, a non-profit that certifies environmentally friendly surfboards.

Transformation machine

A machine dubbed The Blocker is responsible for turning the plastic debris into construction material. It shreds the plastic then uses “super-heated” water and compression to make the ByBlocks.

“The retail prices will be comparable to common hollow cinder blocks but only produce a fraction of the greenhouse gases,” Kujawa said. There are no chemicals or adhesives added in the process.

But while ByFusion is touting its bricks with promotional activities such as the lifeguard tower construction, its also trying to arouse interest in The Blocker machines its selling to make them. Kujawa said the company is currently talking to potential manufacturers of the machines in the United States and hopes to have some in use by the end of the year.

Customers are expected to be recycling centers, waste management facilities and municipalities, she said.