Arqlite rock, is an artificial stone made from different types of plastic waste and offers great technical properties, such as being three times lighter and ten times better insulation than rocks, at a competitive price.
Name: Arqlite SPC
Product / Service Offering: Efficient Construction Materials Made from Plastic Waste
Co-founder Interviewed: Sebastian Sajoux
Other Key Management Team Members: Gaston Viau, Javier Goyret, Victoria Sinner
This article is part of our Business Startup Spotlight series featuring entrepreneurs and their companies. We hope that these founders’ interviews will inspire and motivate you as you undertake your own entrepreneurial journey.
Tell us a little about yourself with a focus on what motivates you.
I am a marketing and environmental consultant. In 2011, I founded B-Green, a green consultancy agency that works in the design and logistics of sustainable solutions for large companies. My major interest resides in creating processes and solutions to tackle environmental problems and finding alternatives for waste to transform into raw material in order to move it back into the production cycle. I have a special interest in biomimesis, a science that studies nature as a source of inspiration for new innovative technologies to solve complex human problems. Nature is perfectly balanced, and I believe that the right path to follow from now on is to approach more and more circular processes.
When did you establish your company and where did the idea originate?
Arqlite was established in 2015 when we discovered the problem of big companies generating large volumes of non-recyclable plastics as part of their production processes. Working together with them on Zero Waste to Landfill (ZWtLF) policies, we managed to address all traditional materials but always had problems with complex plastics, such as laminates, aluminum, and unidentified. We also found that municipalities bury or incinerate large quantities of plastic for the same reason. Knowing that this meant an environmental and an economic problem, we started to study possible processes to take advantage of the benefits of these plastic polymers. After some months of trial and failure, we reached our current process that takes plastic waste and transforms it into artificial rocks. They are light and have more insulation than mineral aggregates. They become a very efficient material for civil engineering projects.
What need or needs does your company seek to fill for its customers?
We work with two markets, which are recycling and construction. Waste companies, such as municipalities and corporations, have to pay for landfill or incinerate their waste, generating an unsustainable and expensive cycle. We offer a greener and competitive option. Companies that recycle waste with Arqlite will receive a recycling certificate for sustainability reports.
On the other hand, the construction industry is a growing area; therefore, we are looking for more efficient materials to try and reduce the heavy impact on nature. An example of this is the use of lightening materials to reduce the need for concrete. The standard for this is Light Expanded Clay Aggregate (LECA), but it is expensive and has several downsides. LECA is produced from pure clay extracted from open sky quarries which significantly affect the environment. The process consumes enormous amounts of energy as clay is expanded in rotary kilns at 1600ºC. Plus, when LECA is used in the concrete mix, it has to be previously hydrated bringing inconveniences to the process.
Our product, the Arqlite rock, is an artificial stone made from different types of plastic waste and offers great technical properties, such as being three times lighter and ten times better insulation than rocks, at a competitive price. Regarding the environmental benefits, not only does our process consume less energy, but we are also able to recycle all kind of plastics, even the ones that today are considered as non-recyclable. Unlike LECA, Arqlite rock does not need to be hydrated, thus making the process simpler. Arqlite rock has several other uses such as base and sub-base for road paving, drainage layering, and ballast for railroads.
What is the one thing that sets your company apart from its competitors?
In the first place, we compete against landfills and incinerators for the source of plastics, both pollutants and non-sustainable materials. Arqlite is price competitive and will generate a recycle certificate to be used in sustainability reports.
Once processed into stone, it competes with quarry stone. Quarry stone is the default aggregate used in concrete. It is tried, true, and trusted, but heavy, costly, and not environmentally friendly, despite being a “natural” product.
Arqlite competes against LECA specifically when lightweight concrete is the end product.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while getting your company up and running, and how did you overcome it?
When we started developing Arqlite rocks, the biggest challenge was to prove what the product could do and that it was efficient. We faced many people in the industry who told us that what we wanted to do was impossible. We kept working, knowing and hoping that there was a way. We finally achieved our process and proved Arqlite’s efficiency with several lab tests at National Institute of Industrial Technology, Argentina (INTI) and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory .
Are there resources you have utilized that other founders might find compelling or useful?
We have made alliances with investigation centers such as Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and INTI. We also have a strong Board of Advisors with referrals from the construction industry that help us to overcome obstacles and follow the right path.
<see related: 12 Suggestions for Creating a Highly Effective Board of Advisors >
What steps have you taken to secure funding for your company and what, if anything, would you do differently if you had to start over?
We participated in Fledge in January 2015, gaining great interest in Arqlite from the City of Seattle, King County’s authorities, and from big players related to construction such as Lafarge, US Concrete and Stoneway Concrete.
We have gathered several Letters of Intention to validate our system. There is already a firm interest from big consumer brands such as Unilever, Mondelez, Bemis, and the City of Buenos Aires to start processing all the discarded plastics for Arqlite production.
Have there been any questions you have had as an entrepreneur of a fledgling startup that you had a particularly hard time finding the answers to?
As an entrepreneur there are always questions about your product or service or the path you have followed. Participating in entrepreneurial programs or accelerators helps refocus and recharge your energy.
Looking for the right accelerator? Check out our Global Accelerator Register for Options!
What challenges, if any, are you grappling with?
At this point our biggest challenge is fundraising. We have just opened our second investment round to set up the first large scale facility in Buenos Aires and begin our soft-landing in the US. We have received great interest due to our innovative system and the traction we already have, but setting up this first facility is definitely the next challenge to overcome.
What is the most helpful tip or “hack” you’ve ever learned, stumbled across, or been given?
“Get out of the office and go meet people!”
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