The plastic problem that plagues our planet is an uphill battle. Canadians throw away over 3 million tonnes of plastic waste every year. Only 9% is recycled while the rest ends up in our landfills, waste-to-energy facilities or the environment. And we’re a relatively small population.
From plastic straws to disposable grocery bags to takeout cutlery, it seems cities everywhere are trying to create solutions. On the business side, winter jackets, swimwear, home goods, and building materials are taking advantage of these waste streams to create products that sell for a premium and can back up their sustainability claims.
One of the main reasons that plastics aren’t recycled is because of our sorting system, which has limited sorting abilities and can’t recycle things made of multiple materials. Also, in Toronto, none of our recycling equipment has the ability to detect black plastic. Vas-Tum was founded to find a way to recycle as many pieces of plastic as possible and create affordable and functional building materials that can help us divert plastic from being burned or sitting in a landfill.
A Decade in Plastics Manufacturing
Pavneet Singh started VAS-TUM with a solid industry background. He started working for his father’s company, Ajit Plastic, where he assisted with everything from production management to business development. But, he was constantly fascinated with waste streams in plastic production and lifecycle and wanted to create a solution for all the un-recyclable materials that are burnt or just simply thrown away.
When he started exploring the possibilities of the project, his father left him to his own devices. After almost 2 years and over 100 iterations, he went to show it to his biggest mentor and business inspiration. His father laughed in his face and thought Pavneet was wasting his time, going from industrialist to scrap processor.
Pavneet knew that this was still a problem to be solved, and he had the skills and knowledge to make a real difference. So he persisted. Retailers in the industry loved the idea and could see the benefit of such a high-quality, diverse offering. Not only was it manufactured locally, but because of the infinite number of waste streams, there would be few reasons for supply chain disruptions.
Unfortunately, the local market wasn’t on the same page, and found it inauspicious to put a product made from trash in front of their houses, even if it was repackaged beautifully. But this did not deter Pavneet, and he decided to explore other markets they could sell to.
Recycling plastic for construction isn’t a new concept. The widely popular grassroots initiative began in Guatemala and has gone international, helping catalyze economies globally. Anyone can combat waste and help build buildings with waste materials.
VAS-TUM’s innovative recycling process can treat not only plastic waste but industrial and agricultural waste. They use this to then create beautiful, fire retardant, anti-static, weather friendly and cost-effective paver and floor tiles that have a life span of more than 2 decades and are infinitely recyclable.
The tiles are produced using fully automated injection moulding, which means that the melted plastic is injected into a tile mould, meaning there is no product wastage in production and you get a beautiful, uniform product every time.
The tiles are suitable for temperatures of -30 degrees to +40 degrees Celcius, are anti-slip, anti-fungal and anti-microbial, and are lightweight, making them more cost-effective to transport and install.
Eco-friendly Building Material Trends
Sustainable building materials make sense with a growing global population, a housing crisis, and carbon policies. But how do you classify sustainable building materials?
“Green” without 3rd party certifications could mean anything from manufactured locally to non-toxic to simply more durable. The Most commonly labelled green building materials include; bamboo, cork, cellulose, earth, fibre cement, hempcrete, recycled steel, stone, and wood.
The global green building materials market is expected to reach US$711.06 billion by 2030 from US$270.26 billion in 2020 at a CAGR of 10.16%. The residential green building materials market is expected to lead the growth in the coming years, with people who have disposable income becoming increasingly aware of health concerns in their environments. Growing government regulations around the world for carbon neutrality will also drive in part the adoption of these materials.
Growing Your Startup
The Vas-Tum North American expansion is well underway as the team looks to secure a manufacturing facility in Ontario. In the meantime, they say that the programming team at TBDC helps keep founders motivated. Market awareness is very important and is the biggest gap the team experienced upon arrival, and the TBDC team has been key in helping the company make meaningful conventions.
Are you part of an international startup looking to expand into the North American Market? Toronto Business Development Centre (TBDC), is Toronto’s original business incubator, with an offering specifically designed to help established businesses reach their potential in the western hemisphere. Ready to take the next step? Apply today!