Ever wondered what to do with those pesky bits of unrecyclable plastic so they don’t end up in landfill? EcoBrick them!
Ian Dommisse of EcoBrick Exchange gave me the scoop on what exactly EcoBricks are and how to make them. Here’s the lowdown:
What are EcoBricks?
Essentially, it’s a technology to replace traditional building bricks. EcoBricks are 2 liter plastic bottles stuffed with unrecyclable plastic. The concept was born in Guatemala after a major flood created an urgent need to rebuild houses. The bricks are not load bearing, so they need to sit as a fill within a concrete or steel structure, making them particularly well-suited for insulation purposes or for use in multi-storey structures.
Bright and cheerful, the bricks are used to make raised garden beds, benches, furniture and other structures such as play centres. A recent project includes the building of a Learn and Play Centre in Port Elizabeth – a collaborative (and super inspiring!) project which you can read about here.
How are they made?
Once you have a stash of unrecyclable plastic — sweet wrappers, plastic bags, food packaging, foil, photos, cling wrap, polystyrene, toothpaste and cosmetic tubes, plastic straws, elastics, and small plastic toys (Stikeez!) — you’re good to go:
- Clean the plastic and begin compressing it into a 2 liter coke (or other) bottle
- Use a stick to pack each layer as tightly as you can; it needs to be firm. You shouldn’t be able to squish it with one hand, or more than around one tenth of its weight
- It’s best to use bottles of the same size and to keep them out the sun
- Once your brick/s are done, you can take them to one of the drop-off points around the country. Keep an eye on the EcoBrick Exchange website for a growing list, but for now, here’s where you can drop-off:
– Montebello Design Centre (Newlands)
– Gugu S’thebe (Langa)
– Health Connection (Fish Hoek)
– The Daily Grinder (Simon’s Town)
– Foragers (Scarborough)
– The Re-trade Project (Walmer)
– Wecreate (Maboneng)
– Mamelodi West Community Hall
EcoBricking is a novel way to reduce litter and divert waste from our toxic, heaving landfills, which are fast running out of airspace. But it doesn’t just have environmental benefits. EcoBrick Exchange, the NGO spearheading the technology, run various projects for government, schools, NGO’s and corporates, and most programmes have a job creation component built in. The response from across South Africa has been amazing; communities have been mobilised to get EcoBricking — protecting the environment and learning new skills in the process.
It’s an informal, untested technology so there’s been some red tape in getting projects off the ground – but its gaining momentum and EcoBrick Exchange are continually experimenting with new technologies (such as wobble blocks) and refining their various programmes.
Learn more and get involved!
To see some of the beautiful creations yourself you can visit the Guga S’thebe Arts and Cultural Centre in Langa, the site of many workshops and a storage facility for the bricks.
To hear about upcoming workshops and events, keep an eye on the EcoBrick Facebook page here.
And if you’d like to get your school involved or open up a drop off point please email the EcoBrick team at firstname.lastname@example.org with your idea in the subject line.