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A solution to the plastics that no one wants and can't be recycled

green infrastructure
Posted at 12:15 PM, Aug 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-10 14:15:01-04

ORANGE COUNTY, California — Billions of tons of plastic exist on our planet, but only a small fraction of them are actually able to be recycled. It’s a problem that will only continue to grow as more plastic is produced. One conservationist has found a solution to using the plastics no one else wants.

Have you ever thought about what happens to your trash when it leaves your home? Sebastian Sajoux certainly has.

“The only thing I think is how many of these are still going to a landfill and that’s the best case, because many end up in the environment, in dams, in watercourses," Sajoux said.

This conservationist has spent much of his career trying to reduce our carbon footprint.

“The more you get involved with what’s going on out there with the environment, pollution, contamination, the more you feel you need to do something about it," Sajoux said.

From Argentina to the United States, he brought his ideas to start a company that’s the first of its kind.

“This was born trying to find the solution to those plastics," Sajoux said.

He’s talking about Arqlite, his company that’s finding a purpose for plastics no one else wants and right now their main product is smart gravel.

“We think it’s smart because it takes all the best of plastic polymers. It is long-lasting, it is inert," Sajoux said. “Concrete is made with sand, cement, and gravel, so you can replace totally or partially that gravel with our smart gravel, and then you get lighter, a bigger insulated concrete and of course greener. You can use it for hydroponics to replace expanded clay as a medium for growing your plants and you can use it even for small home gardening projects.”

It’s used with two different types of plastic. One is laminated materials on flexible packaging. The other is mixed plastics.

According to a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances, of the 8.3 billion metric tons that have been produced, 6.3 billion metric tons have become plastic waste.

“There’s no waste. It’s just how we find value in what we discard every day," Sajoux said.

That’s how Sajoux is trying to reduce those numbers because right now, 79% is accumulating in landfills or in the environment as litter.

As a gardener, James Rangel is incorporating smart gravel into his work.

“And I quickly realized they are tackling waste. Waste that can’t be tackled otherwise, other than be dumped into a landfill," Rangel said. “I’ve used his product in my garden bed and my garden bed doesn’t have issues that other gardeners have with over saturation. I have very good drainage because of his product. His product sits at the base of my bed, below my soil.”

Rangel says making changes to use products like these needs to happen both with big companies and small operations like himself.

“I’m trying to be more resourceful by looking into the products that I buy," Rangel said. “Plastic isn’t going anywhere; it’s going to outlive us.”

With every bag shipped to Rangel and other customers, it’s another bag of plastic not wreaking havoc on our environment.

“I love seeing those going out, because it’s like OK, it’s working, it’s working people are getting used to a new material, a new product," Sajoux said.

Sajoux says the answers lie in changing our mindsets.

“When we stop thinking about this as trash, is when we understand that there is many things we can do with it," Sajoux said.