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CEMEX Ventures invests in Arqlite SPC

Published by , Deputy Editor
World Cement,

CEMEX Ventures, CEMEX's Corporate Venture Capital and open innovation unit, has announced its investment in Arqlite SPC, a US company based in California. Arqlite SPC processes unrecyclable plastic waste into artificial gravel, avoiding the use of natural quarry aggregates and boulders in the production of light concrete with a low CO2 footprint and for installing drainage beds for construction and landscaping. CEMEX Ventures’ new alliance with Arqlite SPC offers an innovative solution around the construction industry’s circular economy: it gives a second life to plastic and reduces the carbon footprint and operating costs of handling and producing construction materials such as aggregates and concrete.

Arqlite SPC began its research and development process in Argentina in 2016. It has developed an innovative technology that allows most of the plastic waste to be recycled instead of disposal at a landfill or polluting the environment. The light aggregates it produces represent a significant advance in sustainable construction, multiplying thermal and acoustic insulation by ten times compared to mineral aggregates and offering better construction quality and higher energy conservation. The aggregate is three times lighter than stone, making it excellent for low CO2 concrete that is also intended to reduce required structural supports and to significantly lower transportation costs. The low thermal conductivity of plastic reduces its reaction to extreme temperature variations and, therefore, the possibility of fracturing or altering the concrete mix.

One million plastic bottles are purchased every minute, and 500 billion plastic bags are used annually. Also, eight million tons end up in oceans every year, threatening marine life. Thus, CEMEX Ventures and Arqlite SPC bet on a low-cost technological solution, capable of processing the vast majority of plastic waste as raw material. Due mainly to the lack of environmental awareness and existing technical limitations, it is estimated that only 7% of the 300 million tons of plastic waste generated is finally recycled.

This investment by CEMEX Ventures is part of CEMEX's ambition to deliver net-zero CO2 concrete to all of its customers globally by 2050, as this solution uses practically all types of plastics as raw material, preventing them from ending up in landfills or unsustainable destinations.

“Plastic waste processing is a global problem with no large-scale solution so far. We believe that, due to the large volume of material used by the construction industry, we can recycle much of this plastic waste, making us a solution to this problem, while generating construction materials with better functionality and a lower carbon footprint. That is why this investment has a twofold mission: to help mitigate the great problem of plastic waste and, simultaneously, to produce construction materials with a low CO2 footprint," said Cristina Aparicio, Head of CEMEX Ventures investment in Arqlite.

Arqlite SPC is to install version 2.0 of its technology in its new factory in Santa Ana, California, based on developments in Argentina. This new production plant has machinery from different European countries, which, added to the technology designed locally by the company, will reach a capacity of 18 thousand tpy. Its location is strategic for CEMEX since it is within the radius of several of its concrete and aggregate operations in the California area. Also, Arqlite already has agreements to recycle plastics from large generators throughout the Los Angeles region and works with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), to continue innovating in the construction industry.

CEMEX Ventures has joined as an investor to Kamay Ventures, venture capital fund of Grupo Arcor SAIC and Coca Cola Argentina, and Chris Graff, founder of NYC Curb-To-Market Challenge, and successful businessman in the manufacturing industry, among others. The positive reception to this innovative solution focused on the circular economy has generated interest from numerous actors in different sectors, making it easy to scale and implement it across various geographies.

Sebastián Sajoux, CEO and founder of Arqlite SPC, said, "Our technology can become a key player in this large market industry. We have developed a large-scale solution to a large-scale problem." Arqlite, which was also the winner of the CEMEX Ventures Global Construction Startup Competition 2019, invites entrepreneurs to participate in the 2020 edition of the competition, which remains open until 26 July 2020. "For Arqlite SPC, being part of the Global Construction Startup Competition 2019 was vital because working together and being validated by a company like CEMEX Ventures opens new doors for us and helps our brand, which is still small, to reach other large companies that are open to receiving us and hearing about our proposal."

Launched in 2017, CEMEX Ventures focuses on helping to solve the main challenges and capitalising on the opportunity areas in the construction ecosystem through sustainable solutions. CEMEX Ventures has created an open and collaborative platform to lead the revolution of the construction industry by engaging startups, entrepreneurs, universities, and other relevant actors to tackle the industry's toughest challenges and shape tomorrow's value ecosystem.

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