As you may well know we have recently launched our own recycling centre. We are very much learning as we go and are really enjoying finding ways of using or recycling all the plastic coming into the centre! The recycling / sorting centre is growing each week, so we’re looking into ways of expanding further. As part of this we are exploring if ecobricks could be a viable solution to some of the non-recyclable plastic we get. In order to do this we needed to do a bit of research. See below for what we found out…

 

So, what are ecobricks?

An ecobrick is a plastic bottle filled with used plastic or non-biodegradable waste to a set density. Ecobricks can be made from any size transparent PET plastic bottle.

Packing plastic into a bottle means soft plastics are compressed together. This minimisation of their net surface area secures the plastic from potential sources of degradation. For example, heat, burning, friction and photo-degradation.

Originally many local initiatives and individuals independently started using ecobricks as a resource and way of fighting against plastic waste. In 2013 many came together to form the Global Ecobrick Alliance (GEA) with the goal of establishing consistency and guidelines across the global movement.

 

Ecobricks serve as a way to trap and secure plastic from entering the environment and causing ecological harm. They also work as affordable, reusable building blocks or materials and provide opportunities for employment.

Ecobricks are great for creating furniture. From the stools you see in the video to benches and tables – anything you can imagine really! Also used in structural work and construction, the GEA’s recommended method for this is earthen mortar. This method sees ecobricks laid horizontally in cob (a mix of clay, sand and organic binder). Typically with a 3-5cm space of cob mortar between each bottle.

 

Ecobricks & cob mortar wall

See here for full details on different building techniques

 

How to make an ecobrick:

1. The bottle and the packed plastic need to be clean and completely dry to prevent the growth of bacteria.

2. Cut or rip the plastic into small pieces before packing into a bottle little by little

3. Alternate between adding the plastic and compacting it, layer by layer.

4. Turn the bottle regularly to ensure the layers are even and no space is left

5. Completed ecobricks are packed solidly enough that they can hold the weight of a person without deforming

6. The weight vs volume of your ecobrick is a good indicator of the quality of your ecobrick. The GEA has determined that a density of 0.33 g/ml is the minimum for a passable ecobrick. For example, a 2l bottle should weigh 0.66kg / 660g (2000 x 0.33).

7. Final step is to validate your ecobricks to help track how much plastic is being used etc. and find out where to drop them off – gobrik

 

Some pros and cons to consider.

Pros:

  • You’re finding a use for non-recyclable plastic and keeping it out of landfill.
  • Individuals can use ecobricking to track their plastic consumption.
  • It doesn’t require many tools or additional resources (e.g. power) to create ecobricks.
  • They tackle problems of waste as well as unemployment and lack of housing.
  • An ecobrick can even be used as a commodity (see GoBrik for more info).

Cons:

  • Ecobricks don’t stop the use of plastic and could actually incentivise continued use (will people buy more bottles to get the right kind for their ecobrick project?).
  • Can be time consuming to make correctly.
  • It takes recyclable plastic bottles out of the resource stream.

 

Ecobricks are not the magical one stop shop solution to our plastic problem, but are definitely a great tool. Especially when considering the vast amount of non-recyclable plastic waste around!

We have made a few ecobricks now, but are not yet sure if it’s the right solution for us – watch this space. If you decide to take up making ecobricks please let us know and tell us what you think…