Building the future with recycled plastic bricks

As the plastic mountain increases worldwide, it offers opportunities for innovative, clever people to think up better ways to use this amazing resource.

At last some of our inventors are starting to think of ideas to help use recycled plastic to make something very useful indeed, buildings bricks.

Several have already turned their dreams into commercial ideas and hopefully in time these bricks will become a mainstream building material.

The advantages of using recycled plastics in this way are multi-fold:

  • Low Environmental impact, reduce energy consumption and waste
  • Sustainable and low Carbon emissions
  • Ensuring a circular economy and increased job opportunities
  • Thinner and lighter than conventional bricks
  • Diverting thousands of tonnes of plastic away from landfills and incineration
  • Low cost modular housing / buildings in deprived areas (up to 30% less cost than conventional bricks)
  • Some (but not all) make a building structurally sound enough to withstand earthquakes and typhoons   
  • Excellent insulation properties (up to 5 times greater than conventional bricks)
  • Very good noise insulation
  • Buildings can be dismantled and re-used in other areas – great for disaster zones and remote areas
  • Less energy intensive than recycling plastic into other forms.

A quick search on-line and here are just 3 of the companies working on recycling plastic into building bricks.

Conceptos plasticos

A Colombian company Conceptos Plásticos saw two pressing issues in the world and decided to tackle both with recycled building materials. One issue is the housing crisis, prevalent in Latin America where 80 percent of the population now resides in urban areas. The second is the overwhelming amount of plastic crowding landfills. To combat these issues, Conceptos Plásticos collects plastic waste, melts it and pours it into a mould to produce plastic blocks that work like Lego pieces. Families can use these bricks to easily construct their own homes, temporary housing, shelters, classrooms and community hall

This house is being made from recycled plastic bricks

Conceptos Plásticos works with local communities to source plastic and rubber and train locals on the building process.

A home for one family will take four people five days to construct with the recycled building blocks. On a larger scale, a shelter for 14 families takes 15 people, with no construction experience, only 10 days to build.

A standard home can be constructed for $5,200 just 70% of the cost of a structure built with more traditional methods.

The plastic building blocks have already helped people, for example in 2015 a hostel was built for 42 families “displaced by violence” in Colombia. In addition this building can easily be torn down and rebuilt elsewhere if they ever had to move again.

The plastic building blocks will degrade around 500 years or more down the road, but for now they offer shelters for families who can’t afford other housing or are fleeing crises.

Co-founder Oscar Andres Mendez says “We are mitigating global warming and helping to close the extreme poverty gap with a solution that has a high, social, environmental and economic impact,”

 He also says “They want to replicate their business model in other countries.”

Byfusion

Peter Lewis, a New Zealand based inventor, has been following a similar process to Miniwiz and Conceptos Plasticos with a company called ByFusion, The company’s main focus is to convert plastic rubbish into a range of sustainable building materials.

Peter is the man behind RePlast (also called ByBlocks), a brick-like product that can be made in a variety of shapes, sizes and densities.

His system only takes around 20 bottles to make one brick.

There are billions of waste plastic bottles which we can use as building materials

The process involves a modular platform that is portable and designed to run on gas or electricity. His machine (The Blocker) doesn’t even need the plastic to be sorted or washed; it just compresses the plastic scrap directly into bricks. The “Blocker” can be easily transported in a standard 40ft (12M) shipping container and once installed, plastic waste is emptied into the shredder and then moves on to the water boiler and compactor section. Using super-heated water, the plastic is then simply compressed and shaped into durable bricks.

The processing system to make recycled plastic bricks

According to the ByFusion website, ByBlocks are perfect for non-load-bearing walls, retaining walls and walls that require soundproofing. Also, because of the flexible nature of plastic, they’re ideally suited to earthquake zones too or you can simply just use them for making durable, long-lasting fences.

ByBlocks can also be used to make roads and are great for small community projects too. In theory they epitomise the definition of a circular economy, whereby plastic waste washing up in local communities is processed and used in local community centres or on roadways.

Miniwiz Sustainable Energy Ltd. 

This company makes bricks from recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic.

Miniwiz has already built several structures including an entertainment campus, IMAX theatres, factories, and exhibition areas in Taiwan, Malaysia, and China. A recent addition is the  EcoArk Pavilion in Taipei. The walls of this building are made solely of plastic bottles called Polli-bricks that fit together like Lego pieces. Much of the raw material comes from recycled water bottles.

The bricks can be blow-moulded out of shredded PET bits at a construction site. Next, they are stacked into rectangular panels. Workers then cover the bricks with a film similar to the coating found on smartphone screens. The coating makes the panels resistant to fire and water. The coating can even be laced with light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, to provide low-cost lighting.

We at Ecofrenzy hope this type of building concept takes off and we can start to recycle some of the billions of tonnes of plastic polluting our planet. Finger crossed!!

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