Turning a ‘tragic plastic’ problem into a nation building solution

Don Thompson, the CEO of The Center of Regenerative Design and Collaboration (CRDC) plans to turn all South Africa’s unrecycled plastic waste, at 1 100 000 million tons per year, into jobs, clean our environment and help build houses, hospitals, schools and roads. 

He is the inventor of a process that can turn any plastic – dirty or clean and in any form – into the very building blocks of sustainable development.  The product, EcoArena PRA (Pre-Conditioned Resin Aggregate) and Ecoblock are innovative environmentally friendly products which incorporate regenerated waste plastic particles combined with a standard sand-cement mixture to produce a highly resistant, durable cement or cement block while providing a viable up-cycling usage of this waste material.

The product has been tested and applied by PEDREGAL in Costa Rica for the past two years with great success (see brief case study below).   CRDC is also collaborating with international US chemicals giant, Dow in the development of EcoArena in a bid to develop a lead initiative for the alliance to end plastic waste.

In South Africa, CRDC has partnered with a leading operations company that has extensive expertise and a long track record in on-site waste management, plastic recycling, waste to energy and implementation of zero waste to landfill solutions.

Donald Thomson and PEDREGAL are introducing EcoArena PRA to South Africa via an initial investor and partner roundtable to be held in Cape Town in the first week of April. 

The case study 

In Costa Rica, Thompson has been working with PEDREGAL, the largest cement, and concrete block company in Costa Rica and in collaboration with DOW, the American multinational chemical corporation.  Over the past two years, the product has been tested and used for the last six months.

The aim is to use 4 000 tonnes of plastic waste per month for the EcoArena technology. The feasibility of the product as an environmental break-through is proven and as a commercially viable and profitable commodity it also meets sustainable development requirements on all levels.

PEDREGAL began testing the use of EcoArena in their CMU concrete blocks, having achieved successful technical results and compliance with international standards (ASTM and C90).  PEDREGAL then introduced EcoArena to all their concrete products under the prefix ECO.  Sales and Marketing Director of PEDREGAL, David Zamora says: “This breakthrough in transforming plastic and using it in the same way as you would conventional aggregate is a game-changer.  Not only can we conduct our business in a more sustainable way but also we can also help solve one of the biggest problems we have created as human beings – that of plastic contamination.  This is the very essence of our circular economy – one in which the construction industry is helping the plastic industry solve a waste problem by turning it into a raw material that can be used in any construction on the planet.”

The South African government has recognised the role that waste can play in creating jobs and socio- economic opportunities, and in moving South Africa towards a more resource efficient economy. This is evident in the number of initiatives and legislative reforms that have been proposed by government to boost growth in this sector (Source:  Green Cape 2018 Waste Market Intelligence Report).

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