How an IMPAC+ project is converting plastic waste into bricks for construction
IMPAC+ by Oceanworks® enables brands to directly engage in plastic offsetting through turnkey solutions, such as diverting microplastic-laden “mud” into sustainable building bricks
In some communities in Indonesia, bricks containing post-consumer recycled plastic byproducts are, for the first time, competing with traditional building materials in the home construction market. These sustainable bricks are made of “mud” laden with microplastics that would typically be considered valueless, disposed of, and likely end up back in the environment.. But with the support of IMPAC+ by Oceanworks brand partners, it’s now possible for that plastic waste to stay out of landfills and instead be repurposed into construction materials.
That’s because brands who have partnered on this project through IMPAC+ by Oceanworks are covering the added cost associated with converting this mud into usable building bricks, a cost that would otherwise make this endeavor financially unviable for the local partner.
Many brands in the U.S. and around the world, especially those that use plastic in their products or packaging, are eager to help reduce plastic pollution globally and to integrate plastic offsetting into their corporate sustainability practices. As part of their commitment to the environment, some brands are seeking to be plastic neutral while others want to amplify their efforts and offset plastic far beyond their own footprint.
However, most companies don’t have the internal infrastructure and know-how to manually collect, mechanically process, and ultimately divert post-consumer plastic waste from the environment. That’s where IMPAC+ by Oceanworks comes into play. It’s a program designed to make plastic action and plastic offsetting feasible for any brand.
IMPAC+ by Oceanworks has cultivated a global network of post-consumer plastic collectors, aggregators, and processors, which work together to offer Oceanworks brand partners direct connections to plastic offsetting solutions. The Oceanworks team even has the ability to custom-tailor plastic offsetting programs to a brand’s individual needs and interests. Through Oceanworks’ in-house track and trace system – which provides GPS coordinates and detailed data on where and how plastic is collected from the environment, aggregated, processed, repurposed, and ultimately delivered – IMPAC+ brand partners can be confident that their involvement in IMPAC+ solutions are legitimately generating specific, measurable, and reportable plastic offsets.
Thanks to our track and trace verification system, the IMPAC+ program provides our brand partners with quantifiable measures of “additionality” (otherwise known as 'plastic credits' or 'plastic offsets') – tangible actions that divert plastic pollution from the environmental above and beyond what a brand’s normal operations would generate – that help move the needle on a brand’s sustainable action plans and its environmental, social, and governance (ESG) bottom lines.
There are many different solutions that IMPAC+ can offer brand partners. In this article, we’re giving a detailed look at just one example of these projects: converting microplastic-laden mud into usable bricks for construction in Indonesia.
DIVERTING PLASTIC POLLUTION INTO BUILDING BRICKS
A key way Oceanworks helps brands take plastic action is by partnering with them to integrate post-consumer recycled plastic into their products and packaging, with the goal of reducing virgin plastic production as much as possible. To make this possible, Oceanworks coordinates a network of plastic recyclers and manufacturers around the world to turn raw feeds of plastic waste collected from the environment into high-quality manufacturing stocks of resins, flakes, or pellets of recycled plastic.
One such supplier within the Oceanworks network, located in Indonesia, runs a large-scale plastic collection, aggregation, and processing facility that takes dirty plastic reclaimed from the local environment, grinds those materials down, and then sends that ground-up plastic through a wash process that separates recycled plastic from contaminants such as paper or food scraps. The resins, flakes, and pellets derived from that process can then be supplied to brands desiring to manufacture their products and packaging using post-consumer recycled plastic.
Unavoidably, this plastic processing creates an undesirable byproduct: so-called “mud” made up of contaminants, washing fluid, and microplastics too small to be filtered out by today’s mechanical recycling machinery. It’s essentially the waste of plastic waste, and is normally considered valueless and unusable.
But instead of sending that “mud” byproduct – about half of which is microplastics – into the landfill, this particular Oceanworks partner is taking the extra initiative to devise a method for leveraging that mud by mixing it with sand to produce building bricks. After the “mud” is mixed with sand, each brick is roughly 30 percent microplastics by volume. Because the method to turn this microplastic-laden mud into bricks is more expensive than the process to mold traditional bricks, they would not be able to compete on the local brick market without additional support – which is where Oceanworks IMPAC+ brand partners play an essential role.
Brand partners leveraging this particular IMPAC+ project are subsidizing the cost of turning that mud into usable bricks. In return, this empowers the sale of those sustainable bricks at a competitive price point, creating a viable market and ultimately allowing the plastic within them to be diverted from the landfill.
With support from IMPAC+ brand partners, over the past 7 months more than 329,000 bricks have been created from microplastic “mud,” generating measurable plastic offsets that IMPAC+ brand partners can proudly and confidently report. And in just the first five months of sales, more than two-thirds of those bricks have been purchased for construction use by local builders in Indonesia, indicating this program is creating a real demand for bricks containing otherwise unusable plastic waste.
Learn how your company can make an IMPAC+ now.