Jun 18, 2019 | Updated: 11:38 AM EDT

Ecobricks: Plastics in the Construction World

Mar 23, 2019 08:25 AM EDT

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Ecobricks
(Photo : Photo taken by Josephine Chan and Ian Christie.)

Our community needs building blocks-literally! Bricks are laid out on the streets, on your garden walkway, within the walls of your room, and practically everywhere. And sadly, plastics are everywhere too, imposing a threat to our environment and to the world we live in. Luckily, a few groups around the world have found out about ecobricks.

Ecobricks are plastic bottles or laminated milk cartons filled with cut up or shredded one-time use plastics and are used to build walls, often in small gardens and parks. These shredded plastics are densely packed, making the bottles strong enough to be used to build a wall. This trend started when German architect filled PET bottles with sand and used them for building houses since 2000. In 2010, the Philippines started incorporating how these ecobricks are made into their curriculum for local schools; but instead of using sand, shredded plastics are stuffed inside the plastic bottles. Ecobricks recycling centers can be found anywhere in the Philippines. Just recently, Cagayan de Oro city government, together with Nestle Philippines Cagayan de Oro factory, and Green Antz company opened an ecobricks facility.

Make no mistake, these ecobricks are ensured to have a certain grade of quality. The plastic bottles or laminated milk cartons must first be cleaned and completely dried to avoid accumulation of bacteria. Random shredded nonbiodegradable plastic waste are densely stuffed inside the bottles layer by layer using a stick. Emphasis on the dense packing is made to make sure that the brick made is durable enough. The ecobricks are then arranged, like hollow blocks or regular bricks, and then bonded by cement.

Now it is understandable that aesthetics is an important factor in the world of construction. Aside from aesthetics, the traditional ecobricks were criticized due to the possible harmful effects it may cause. Since the ecobricks are basically buried within the wall of cement, it may possibly release harmful content in the future. This is why another form of ecobricks are made in the Philippines. The company called Green Antz invented a process on how to convert plastics into bricks used for construction. The plastics are first shredded using a pedal-driven machine. After this, the shredded plastic is combined with cement and sand, poured into molds, and then voila, your modern day building blocks are made.

The ecobricks are said to be more expensive by PHP 6-9 (USD 0.11-0.17), but you will be able to save in costs of cement and labor for mixing of. And since recycled plastics are used to substitute a fraction of the sand and gravel fillers, the cost of materials is also generally lower. Right now, a few other companies expressed their interest in the technology and would like to have it mass produced. This would mean conversion of the machine into an automatic one, meaning faster production rate and eventually lower cost of production.

With the seemingly never-ending worldwide problem we have with plastics, ecobricks are indeed a great solution.

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