As most recyclers know, there are a bunch of plastic and related products that cannot be recycled. So, what is the solution? Make ecobricks.3rd Feb 2020
Recycling is a given in most households nowadays. Dealing with paper, cardboard, cans and glass is easy – just make sure items are clean and not contaminated with any food scraps (think pizza boxes). But plastic! Now there’s a minefield of confusion. Once you’ve worked your way around all those pesky numbers, you’re bound to be left with a mound of unrecyclable material.
So, what are your options?
Binning it is the easiest option, but for anyone who is concerned about overflowing landfills and plastic islands in our oceans – and we all should be – that’s not really an option.
Bring on the eco brick. This concept was first started in 2004 by Guatemalan activist Susana Heisse to deal with plastic waste around Lake Atitlán, a lake in the Guatemalan highlands where she lived. Building on the idea of using sand-filled bottles for constructing homes in Bolivia in 2000 – an initiative by German architect Andreas Froese – Susana stuffed a two-litre plastic bottle with plastic waste, and – voilà – the first ecobrick, as we know it, was born.
The why is a no-brainer, but how?
Making ecobricks is simple, but there are some guidelines. All you need is a clean, dry two-litre plastic bottle and a smooth stick for compressing the filling – a wooden dowel or a large wooden spoon will do. It must be comfortable to hold or you’ll soon be giving up on the task. The bottle can be filled with any clean and dry unrecyclable plastic, and even styrofoam containers.
- Start with a layer of soft plastic as this fills the grooves at the bottom of the bottle with ease – anything large and bulky will leave gaps in the grooves. Ideally a base layer of about 5cm will do the trick, but make sure that it is completely solid and well compacted.
- Now add the mixed plastics, including some of the harder bits, followed by another layer of soft plastics. Compress firmly using your wooden stick, ensuring that there are no gaps along the side or in the middle.
- You can use Styrofoam or big pieces of plastic, but first cut them into smaller pieces with scissors.
- Continue in this manner until you are halfway up then check that the bottle feels solid and has no squishy areas – at this point it should weigh at least 300g.
- Keep filling and compacting your bottle until you get to where the curve begins. From this point on you should only use soft plastics as you don’t want any plastic to push up against the lid, which is possible with harder plastic.
- Check the density of your ecobrick, making sure that there are no squishy areas – if there are, use your stick to further compress the plastic. At this point the completed ecobrick should weigh more than 600g (for a two-litre brick).
- Register as an ecobrick maker on the GoBrick (https://www.gobrik.com/) website so as to have the details of your brick logged and the volume of plastic taken out of the environment recorded.
- Your personal dashboard will collate the amount of plastic that you have packed and diverted from landfill and the ocean.
So, you’ve made your ecobrick, now what?
These bricks can be used for the construction of anything from homes to schools and even garden walls. Find a collection point nearby and drop off your bricks, or alternatively partner with a local community and start an ecobrick construction project. For more information and ideas, visit https://ecobrickssa.org/