The Plastinova project helps make construction and tequila distillation considerably more sustainable
Remember how in the 2000s a few companies became briefly famous, and a lot of parks got some new seating, because they figured out how to turn the plastic from milk and water bottles into benches? The Plastinova project has done something similar, but with materials that are much more fun to produce: the waste products of tequila manufacturing.
Plastinova, founded by young entrepreneurs from Jalisco, set out to solve two problems. Construction materials are expensive compared to the average income of people in Mexico, and produce environmentally-unfriendly waste products. Producing tequila creates tons of plastic waste and agave fiber waste each year, which end up in landfills.
In one year, Plastinova developed and applies a process that recycles the plastics from tequila production and combines it with the fibers of the agave bagasse to form building materials to compete with wood and aluminum. The resulting materials are lighter and stronger than wood, more environmentally friendly than either, and significantly less expensive than both. The Plastinova composite is designed both for construction and furnishing — structural or facade work or benches, tables, shelves and chairs.
Making the composite is a three-part process. First, the agave bagasse must be reduced to its fiber, which requires removing alcohol, sugar and nonfibrous physical parts of the plant. Afterward it is dried and ground into powder, and stabilizing compounds are added. Finally the dust is mixed with the recycled plastic and formed into sheets for construction.
Future plans for Plastinova include developing a process that uses coconut husks in place of the agave bagasse, since the bagasse is coveted by wood-burning factories and agave itself is becoming rarer and more difficult to acquire.
The Plastinova project is hopeful for environmentalists because of where it was born.
Less wealthy nations are often considered the “culprits” (or victims) of environmental irresponsibility because they lack the disposable income to push more earth-friendly methods. Born in Jalisco, Plastinova demonstrates that even the poorest parts of the developed world can still find solutions that work for everybody, including the Earth.