Sargassum is a type of brown seaweed that is completely harmless to humans when it stays in the ocean. However, increasingly large amounts of sargassum have been washing up on beaches in Florida and Mexico in recent years, causing all types of problems.
That’s where “Mr. Sargassum” comes in. Omar Vazquez has created a business out of a substance that most people consider to be just a nuisance.
Vazquez created a company called Sargablock. Based in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, Sargablock harvests sargassum that has washed up on beaches and turns it into sturdy, durable bricks that are then used to build houses.
“I wanted to mold something good out of something everyone saw as bad,” he told the Christian Science Monitor.
While sargassum can decompose and dissipate into ocean water with no adverse human impacts, when it washes up on land, it begins to rot, producing hydrogen sulfide and ammonia. These gases result in a rotten egg smell that can drive away tourists and beachgoers as well as also can cause breathing problems for people with asthma.
Researchers have been observing abnormally large sargassum blooms since 2011, with the problem essentially getting worse each year. Some beaches have experienced sargassum pileups that grow to six feet tall. Scientists have speculated that the increased blooms are a result of pollution.
Vazquez has been able to take that problem and turn it into an opportunity. Hotels pay him and his crew to remove the sargassum from their beaches. They then mix the dried seaweed with dirt that has been repurposed from construction sites and mix the combination with water to form a paste. The process results in bricks that are about 40% sargassum.
“This is impressive,” wrote one person who commented on a TikTok about Vazquez’s work that was posted by Science Insider (@scienceinsider). “I was curious what uses could come from the abundant seaweed showing up on beaches.”
“Love that kind of mind and ingenuity,” wrote another commenter. “That is awesome. Good for him.”
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