Contxto – The biggest takeaway from my short-lived farming career in Spain was that linear models are often wasteful. Simply extracting resources for one-time use may be lucrative in the short-term but irresponsible in the long-term. Rather, everything should have multiple utilities, whether turning food scraps into compost or using cardboard to make plant beds.
Arqlite from Argentina recently confirmed this after walking away with a US$250,000 equity investment from the NYC Curb-to-Market Challenge (CTMC). Its large-scale manufacturing solution transforms complex plastic polymers into efficient building materials for the construction industry.
From a group of six finalists, the company won alongside sustainable design consultancy Anthropocene.Design that also received a US$250,000 equity investment.
To stimulate potential markets, this U.S. competition sought viable manufacturing solutions to innovate NYC’s recycling landscape. Within the metropolis, the Department of Sanitation handles around half of the waste NYC produces. Private companies take care of the other half, making the commercial side of recycling an evolving industry.
All the while, there is little public knowledge available to consumers. Determined to divert more rubbish from landfills plus promote circular economic models among the public, it makes sense why CTMC awarded Arqlite.
“While we had many highly qualified applicants, Anthropocene.Design and Arqlite both really blew me out of the water with their approaches to reusing recyclable plastic waste,” said Chris Graff, founder of the CTMC. “I am incredibly excited to help them grow their innovative manufacturing approaches right here in New York City.
Both companies will start operating in NYC over the upcoming months. There, they will have Graff as an adviser and collaborate with angel investors. According to the founder Sebastian Sajoux, he is happy to share his solution.
“It is validation after much effort,” said Sajoux. “We understand that the problem of plastics is a global problem and any city in the world could take advantage of our solution, this is a very strong impulse.”
Arqlite takes care of plastics that would otherwise end up in landfills. In case you didn’t know, plastics belong to a hierarchy. Rather than disposing of complex plastic films incompatible with most recycling processes, the startup transforms the material into resellable building materials.
Specifically, it creates a durable “plastic gravel” that’s lighter and better at insulating than typical rocks. The startup works with municipalities and private companies to receive this plastic waste, most of which comes from packaging companies.
At the same time, the majority of plastic from the packaging and warehouse industries can’t be recycled through normal means. Under this falls HDPE, LDPE, PET, PP and PS plastics. In other words, whatever is laminated, aluminized and degraded.
Regardless of these challenges, Arqlites manages to turn this material into little stone pebbles for various construction purposes. According to reports, this recycled version is lighter, better at insulating, and more competitively priced on the market.
With this material, consumers can create lightweight concrete, drainage systems, as well as pre-molded furniture. In the process, this ecological gravel uses less water and fewer resources at an economical cost.
Soon, Arqlite will launch another processing plant in the United States capable of recycling 1,500 tons of plastic per month. Meanwhile, Arqlite will continue running its reprocessing center back home processing 100 tons of laminated flexible plastic a month. This will be a big upgrade thanks to winning the competition.
“CTMC provides Arqlite with the great opportunity to bring our long-term, sustainable solution for complex plastic [scrap] to New York City,” said Sajoux. “Scaling our upcycling process in NYC will not only have a positive impact on the environment but will also generate new jobs and add value to the local economy.”