Peter Lewis turns plastic waste into green bricks

Posted on 17 November 2016.

New Zealander Peter Lewis invented a machine that converts 100% of plastic waste into bricks.

Oceans are likely to contain more plastic than fish by 2050.

New Zealander Peter Lewis invented a machine that converts 100% of plastic waste into bricks.

Every year armies of dedicated volunteers patrol the beaches, rivers, parks, public gardens, and residential areas around the world collecting the rubbish abandoned by careless citizens. But what happens to the plastic they collect?

A small amount only is recycled. New Zealander Peter Lewis has devised a way of both maximizing the efforts of the many organizations working to clean up the planet and reusing all the plastic waste collected, permanently. But how? By turning it into green building material thanks to a strange machine called ByFusion.

Build a wall against polluted oceans

Peter Lewis’ idea is particularly interesting because it tackles not just one but two major problems! First problem, the accumulation of plastic waste in the environment. "Globally, we produce 300 million tonnes of plastic every year, but we recycle only 8% of it.” According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the oceans are likely to contain more plastic than fish by 2050. The second problem is the significant pollution produced by the construction industry, which represents a very significant proportion of greenhouse gas emissions.

The ByFusion project consists of recovering plastic waste from landfills and associations and turning it into bricks using a low emission and nontoxic process. The waste is washed, dried, and then compressed into large blocks called Replast. ByFusion is capable of producing a 10 kg building block every 40 seconds, in various shapes, sizes and densities as required – and from any type of plastic. Replast bricks provide very good insulation in terms of both heat and sound, and, according to Peter Lewis, their production generates 95% less greenhouse gas than concrete bricks.

From garage walls to emergency shelters

It took ten years for Peter Lewis to develop and make his machine known. This year, the New Zealand Ministry of Environment gave him a grant of $20,000 to finalize his invention. He also landed a partnership with the waste treatment center in Dunedin, allowing it to significantly reduce the amount of plastic waste on its site.

The New Zealander designed ByFusion to encourage the development of circular economy programs in cities and local neighborhoods. Replast bricks were therefore originally intended for building municipal facilities, garages, sheds, fences, etc. But now, their inventor also wants to use his recycled plastic bricks to build housing for disadvantaged people and emergency shelters for victims of natural disasters.

Many initiatives similar to Peter Lewis’ are emerging worldwide. In Colombia, for example, Conceptos Plásticos produces housing for homeless people using plastic waste.