Interview with German Gomez, CRDC’s Factory Supervisor
We recently sat down with German Gomez, CRDC’s Factory Supervisor, to ask him about our progress in Costa Rica. German has overseen production of RESIN8™ since 2019 and is now in charge of transforming the pilot facility into a full-scale production plant capable of processing up to 90 tons of hard-to-recycle plastic per day. Below is a transcript of the interview.
1. How is the scaling-up process going so far?
It’s going really well, but I must admit that going from processing half a ton of plastic a day to 90 tons a day is no easy task. We started by drawing up detailed blueprints of what the new plant should look like. We are fortunate to have a lot of insights and best practices from our pilot, and we were able to analyze each of the processes and their specific requirements.
We are excited to start the new production line as soon as we receive the extruders, grinders and conveyer belts that we’ve ordered. Obviously we need a lot of equipment, some which has already arrived, and we’ve actually started clearing out the entire area and redesigning the space.
2. When do you plan to open the new production line?
As I mentioned, all the equipment has been ordered and the plans are ready, we are just waiting for the machinery to arrive. Currently the initial commissioning tests are scheduled for February 2022, with full scale production shortly thereafter.
3. You’ve been producing RESIN8 since 2019, how’s the product being received in the market?
The acceptance has been overwhelming – in fact we had to play down our marketing of RESIN8 products to ensure we were able to meet demand. Companies want RESIN8 to be used in their projects because they want to be part of the solution to end plastic waste. Overall, we have found that our clients are willing to pay a premium for products made with RESIN8. The level of interest is sky-high, and some of our clients even offered to collaborate with us to expand our RESIN8 product line.
4. What is the main learning for you in producing RESIN8?
It taught me that anything is possible if you are willing to learn. Initially, people in both the plastics industry and in the construction sector thought we were crazy. There were a lot of naysayers, who all pointed to the limited bonding characteristics of plastic in concrete and everyone said that this had been tried before and that it wouldn’t work. But we proved everyone wrong, learning and adjusting as we went along. We showed that we can produce a material (RESIN8) that is very similar to natural rock, with processes and materials very different from those used to produce other construction aggregates.
5. Is there anything that positively or negatively surprised you during the production process?
One of the biggest surprises was seeing the transformation of a problem into a solution, which motivates us to work harder to expand our production capacity to other countries. Another surprise was the opportunity to further refine and improve our technology. We are working on RESIN8-C, which stands for Carbon Capture, a RESIN8 formula that captures CO2. It is still a work in progress, but initial testing has been extremely positive, so we are very optimistic.
While there are quite a few positive surprises, the production process also came with some challenges. The most notable is that processing plastic requires a fair amount of energy. To mitigate this, we use the energy produced by solar panels in our Costa Rican facilities. Currently, these solar panels cover around 25% of our total energy requirements, but this will rise to over 80% once we have scaled up our facilities. It is also important to mention is that our Global Warming Potential is half that of standard recycling.
6. Where do you source the raw materials?
From a variety of sources. The plastic we use ranges from post-industrial waste, to waste from collection centers, to plastic recovered from rivers and environmental clean-ups. Currently, we have more than we can handle, which has led us to turn away some plastic until we can ramp up our production.
Right now, we are accepting 1,400 tons a month, but we recently received a permit that will enable us to handle 2,000 tons of plastic a month. This is very important, as no one in Costa Rica is currently recycling plastic, and even those that collect plastic can only collect resin types 1 and 2, which are then sent to other countries to handle.
7. How did you become personally interested in this project?
I’ve known Donald (ed. CRDC Founder) for a long time, but truth be told I had no interest in plastic until he turned me on to its potential. I remember asking him for 100KG’s of RESIN8 to conduct the first tests and experiments. It took him a month (!) to deliver this first batch and the initial results weren’t very promising. But by that point I understood the enormous potential of this solution to solve the world’s plastic problem and I became its biggest champion. Later tests came in much better and these results enabled us to co-invest in a pilot facility, which we are now scaling up. I look forward to next year, when we’ll be producing this amount in less than an hour!
8. What do you see as the long-term potential for scale?
The sky’s the limit! We have plastic everywhere and we have concrete everywhere, so it’s not unreasonable to think that we can have a RESIN8 production facility in every city in the world, as well as buildings made with RESIN8. Our replicable, scalable solution can solve the world’s tragic plastic waste problem!
9. What kind of partnerships do you need for long-term success and what do you look for in a partner?
We look for partners across the value chain who share our vision and passion for learning and overcoming obstacles. That is, they don’t just see a business, but rather they see opportunity and a solution. Starting with this focus on solutions rather than just financial returns will enable us to succeed. I believe there will be plenty of value (and money) once we scale production.
10. What makes Costa Rica such a unique place to start this project?
Costa Rica is known as a green tourist destination; 25% of our territory is protected and designated as a national park or a reserve. We also have some of the world’s greatest biodiversity – between 5% and 6%. In recent years, more than 98% of the country’s energy is produced from renewables, and this makes us very unique.
We also have a great passion for the environment. This is the real thing here – people are socially and environmentally concerned. From a stakeholder and partner perspective, people in Costa Rica have the right mindset about the environment, and this really helps a project like ours as we try and bring our dreams to fruition.