Farmers have a new option for disposing of agricultural waste through a company that converts used plastic into an ingredient for concrete.
The Center for Regenerative Design and Collaboration, known as CRDC Global, has opened its first U.S. site in York, Pennsylvania. The company, which operates in seven other countries, accepts all plastics, including agriculture waste.
“We say we are ultimately giving plastic waste an end of life. We are sequestering it forever,” said Ross Gibby, the company’s chief operating officer. CRDC Global started in Costa Rica as a project to clean up beaches. It eventually combined this focus with helping to create affordable housing, and building commercial and tourist communities.
To combine the two initiatives, founder Donald Thomson designed a plastic water bottle that could collapse into a roofing tile. He eventually sold this business to focus on larger-scale ideas of plastic reuse. Based on his water bottle experience, Thomson’s vision for combating plastic waste was to find a scalable way to repurpose dirty plastics.
Recycling of household waste has been hindered because people don’t clean out their food containers. The problem is arguably worse for farm plastics, with row covers and silage bags being nearly impossible to rid of soil.
Thomson also wanted to utilize the full range of plastics. Many types of plastic are not commonly recycled, but consumers don’t always know which ones are accepted.
In 2019, CRDC launched its current model of collecting all plastics, numbers 1 through 7, and turning them into a concrete additive the company calls Resin8. The product offers buildings increased fire and thermal resistance, flexibility and strength, according to the company. “The building industry was the perfect place for this, but in order for it to be adopted and accepted by the industry, it had to add value,” Gibby said. “It couldn’t be just taking plastic and hiding it in concrete or other building projects.”
Though CRDC Global can accept less-than-pristine plastics, Gibby said he’s looking for a maximum of 5% to 8% soil since large amounts of dirt will shorten the life of the machines. The amount of plastic collected also needs to stay in line with facility capacity. Any farm looking to send a lot of plastic will need to contact CRDC to determine if the plant can accommodate the volume. Gibby also said that there is a tipping fee for large, frequent drop-offs. The rate is comparable with other local waste disposal options. For small, occasional drop-offs from individuals, farms, households or groups, there is no fee. Right now, all contributions, regardless of size, need to be dropped off, though Gibby is talking with local government and business leaders about other options, such as a pickup service.
As a developing business, CRDC is focusing on gathering plastic waste from manufacturers and households. To encourage residential contributions, CRDC is running the Bag That Builds program, which gives groups recycled bags that can be filled, dropped off and turned into Resin8 — bag and all.
In time, the company might develop a nonprofit to run Bags That Build. The group would separate the 1s and 2s and sell them, creating a revenue stream.
CRDC already works with several nonprofits to gather plastic litter from woods, beaches and bodies of water. Sustainable construction is an emerging field in which agriculture can contribute.
In New Castle, DON Enterprises recently completed Pennsylvania’s first whole-home renovation using hempcrete and HempWood. Black Buffalo 3D Corp. is setting up a plant near East Stroudsburg to build 3D printers that will create buildings from a cement-based mix that could include hemp. And a York County architect builds houses insulated with straw bales.
Gibby’s biggest challenge so far has attracting companies to buy Resin8, but he said the opening of the York plant will help. “We’ve already gone through testing with local concrete partners, and they are ready and able to start absorbing the material once we produce it and once it starts getting specced into building projects,” Gibby said. “So our next stage of the company is to work with design engineers and architects and developers and building projects to get Resin8 specced into those projects.”
After running a pilot project in New Jersey, CRDC selected York, Pennsylvania, for its first U.S. location because of its proximity to major Northeastern cities.
Eventually, CRDC would like to have 50 to 100 sites across the U.S., though there is no timeline for those additions, Gibby said. People interested in supplying plastic to CRDC Global should email firstname.lastname@example.org to determine if the facility can accept the offered volume of material and whether a tipping fee will apply.
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