What do you get when you pack a plastic water bottle with shopping bags, food wrappers and other soft plastics? The answer: an Ecobrick.
Ecobricks are reusable plastic building blocks made of clean and dry used single-use plastics. They take advantage of the fact that plastic is extremely durable to create a useful building material. Developing countries are using Ecobricks to make affordable modular furniture, garden structures and buildings.
Single use plastic is a growing problem worldwide and markets for low-grade and soft plastic are virtually non-existent because they are not of a high enough quality to reuse in the manufacturing of new materials. Ecobricks represent a low-cost recycling alternative.
In Greyton, South Africa, many eco projects are underway, all with a focus on balancing community development with sustainable waste management practices. Ecobricks are being used to create community gardens, outdoor classrooms and even a composting toilet. A new eco-village settlement is also being designed with the added benefit of creating new jobs for the community.
Similarly, in Medellín, Colombia, a new patent utilising Ecobricks aims to provide affordable housing to vulnerable communities while in Mexico, Ecobricks are being used to provide temporary housing for earthquake victims.
Closer to home, the Ecobricks concept is an excellent opportunity for students to put sustainability into practice in their everyday lives. Teachers can use Ecobricks to teach students about how plastic is a threat to the environment, and that all waste has the potential to be reused as a resource.
Making an Ecobrick
What you’ll need
- Used soft plastic – plastic bags, food packaging, straws, cellophane
- Plastic bottle – at least 500ml
- Long stick – to press the plastics down
How to make it
- Prepare your ingredients
Choose same-sized bottles if you’re making more than one Ecobrick. Make sure the bottle and soft plastics are dry. Cut large plastic into smaller pieces for easier stuffing.
- Start with the bottom
Stuff same coloured plastic first as your bottom layer, then build each layer as you go.
- Mix it up as you stuff
Alternate between soft and harder plastic pieces. This maximises density and improves the strength of your Ecobrick. Use a long stick to compress layers of plastic until the bottle is full.
- It’s that simple!
Once the Ecobrick is packed tightly and to the brim, store it in a dry and dim area away from sunlight for later use or donate to organisations that support the initiative.
Contact us for more information about how we make a sustainable future possible through our education programs all over Australia.