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

19 March 2019

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.   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

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.  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.

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