Argentina startup recycles film plastics into gravel

Argentina startup recycles film plastics into gravel

Arqlite is the co-winner of the New York City Curb-to-Market Challenge.

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August 20, 2019

After founding environmental consulting agency B-Green, Sebastian Sajoux learned about the large amount of plastics that can’t be recycled through traditional methods.

“At that time, my main customers were consumer brands,” Sajoux says. “I was focusing on solutions for food packaging and multilayer plastics."

As his clientele of consumer goods companies grew, Sajoux founded Arqlite, an Argentina-based company that aims to solve the global problem of packaging and hard-to-process plastics. 

Arqlite, which processes food packaging and film plastics into gravel that’s used in local construction and landscaping markets, is the co-winner of the New York City Curb-to-Market Challenge (CTMC). The company will receive an investment of $250,000 to build a facility in New York and will be advised by manufacturing entrepreneur and CTMC founder Chris Graff.

Founded in 2014, Arqlite began lab-scale research and development in 2017 before openings its first industrial plant in Buenos Aires in 2018. The plant processes 100 tons per month of plastic gravel with plans to ramp up production to 200 tons per month. All the gravel has been sold into the construction and landscaping market in Argentina.

“We needed to test the technology first and then we needed to prove that someone was ready to pay us to solve their problem with plastics and that there was a need for the gravel in various markets,” Sajoux says.

He adds, "For every ton of gravel we produce, we divert one ton of plastics from the environment. We are diverting plastics from the environment and finding a new life for plastic that has no other way to go.”

By the end of 2019, Arqlite will open a large-scale facility in California, which will allow the company to expand from processing industrial plastics to postconsumer plastics from material recovery facilities (MRFs). Arqlite will charge MRFs a fee competitive with landfill tipping fees to recycle the plastics, Sajoux says.

“We work together with the MRFs to take all the plastics at the end of their separation lines that can’t be recycled,” Sajoux says. “We tell them instead of landfilling this, we can be a sustainable solution for these plastics.”

Arqlite’s technology is capable of processing and combining polypropylene (PP), polyethylene (PE) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) into a polymer that can be molded into different products, including light aggregate for construction, precast for park benches, bust stops and sidewalks and drainage.

Arqlite is working on several funding possibilities to expand to the U.S., including securing a $500,000 investment after winning the CTMC as well as receiving interest from investors in the U.S. and Mexico and a $1.8 million loan from CalRecycle’s recycling market development revolving loan program.

When Sajoux learned about the CTMC, which called on applicants to propose the best idea and business plan for turning New York's recyclables that are sent to landfill into a product that can be locally manufactured and sold, he said it was a “perfect fit.” Arqlite plans to open the New York facility in mid-2020.

“Now that we have the connections, we’ve been speaking with the sanitation department, Sims and local construction companies in New York City,” Sajoux says.

Arqlite is also working with Parley for the Oceans to help process plastics from the ocean.

Anthropocene.Design, a circular economy design consulting company, is the other winner of the CTMC.