Ecobricks: Building Blocks for the Future
by Tatiana Orr
Single use plastics may only account for a smaller portion of the larger plastic pollution issue, but it definitely makes a huge impact. We produce 300 million tons of plastic globally each year half of which is single use. 91% of this plastic ends up not being recycled at all, so that’s where we see build ups in landfills, our oceans, and other parts of the environment.
What is single use plastic? Think of all the disposable things you use once then throw away. Straws, cups, bags, wrappers and bottles are all common examples. When these plastics are exposed to the sun and water they begin to break down into chemical toxins and micro plastics which are poisonous to our bodies and environment. One way to reduce the amount that goes into the trash is to find ways to reuse them.
A nonprofit organization called Ecobrick, found a creative way to make use of discarded plastic by using them as literal building blocks. Pieces of clean and dry used plastic are packed densely into PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles to create ecobricks. The reusable blocks are said to “reduce the net surface area of packed plastic to effectively secure it from degrading into toxins and microplastics”. They can be used for short and long term purposes in modular units, lego furniture, open spaces, gardens, and structures. Deriving from ancient techniques, the movement started with the Igorot people of the Northern Philippines and their belief in a zero waste lifestyle.
Part of the beauty of the Ecobrick organization is the community it has inspired around the world. Semillas Del Oceano an NGO in Guatemala built a school in 2018 entirely out of ecobricks made in the El Quezalito community. They even taught children how to fill the bottles and collected over 36,000 ecobricks which were weaved into chicken wire and covered in concrete to create a structure that is being used through today! The project was fully funded by The Rufford Foundation and supported by the National Council of Protected Areas and the Ministry of Environment. This is just one example of the many ways Ecobrick is igniting change in promoting sustainable innovation.
To learn more about the organization or how to get involved you can visit the Ecobrick website where they detail step by step how you can start creating your own!