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2020 / 2021 Edition

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CEMEX Ventures invests in solution to plastic waste

Arqlite SPC's lightweight plastic aggregate

US startup firm Arqlite SPC using plastic waste to produce lightweight recycled aggregates with low CO2 footprint

CEMEX’s corporate venture capital and open innovation unit, CEMEX Ventures, has today announced its investment in Arqlite SPC, a California-based startup company which processes unrecyclable plastic waste into lightweight artificial aggregate for use in the production of light concrete with a low CO2 footprint.

CEMEX Ventures’ new alliance with Arqlite – winners of the CEMEX Ventures Global Construction Startup Competition 2019 – offers an innovative solution centred around the construction industry’s circular economy: it gives a second life to plastic and reduces the carbon footprint and operating costs of producing and handling construction materials such as aggregates and concrete.

The light aggregates produced by Arqlite are said to represent a significant advance in sustainable construction, multiplying thermal and acoustic insulation by 10 times compared with mineral aggregates and offering better construction quality and greater energy conservation.

The aggregate is three times lighter than stone, whilst the low thermal conductivity of the recycled plastic reduces its reaction to extreme temperature variations and, therefore, the possibility of fracturing or altering concrete mixes.

Globally, 1 million plastic bottles are purchased every minute and 500 billion plastic bags are used annually. In addition, around 8 million tons of plastic ends up in the oceans every year, threatening marine life.

Due mainly to the lack of environmental awareness and existing technological limitations, it is estimated that only 7% of the 300 million tons of plastic waste generated each year is finally recycled.

For this reason, CEMEX Ventures and Arqlite are offering this low-cost technological solution, capable of processing the vast majority of plastic waste as raw material.

The investment by CEMEX Ventures is part of the Mexican cement giant’s ambition to deliver net-zero-CO2 concrete to all of its customers globally by 2050, as the Arqlite solution uses practically all types of plastics as raw material, preventing them from ending up in landfills or unsustainable destinations.

‘Plastic waste processing is a global problem with no large-scale solution so far,’ said Cristina Aparicio, head of CEMEX Ventures’ investment in Arqlite.

‘We believe that, due to the large volume of material used by the construction industry, we can recycle much of this plastic waste, making us a solution to this problem, while generating construction materials with better functionality and a lower carbon footprint.

‘That is why this investment has a double mission: to help mitigate the great problem of plastic waste and, simultaneously, to produce construction materials with a low-CO2 footprint.’

Arqlite already have agreements in place to recycle plastics from large generators throughout the Los Angeles region and say their innovative solution has generated interest from numerous actors in different industries, making it easy to scale and implement this solution across various geographies.

Sebastián Sajoux, chief executive officer and founder of Arqlite SPC, said: ‘Our technology can become a key player in a large-market industry. We have developed a large-scale solution to a large-scale problem.’

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