Posted by Tom Fitz
Tom Fitz
Tom utilizes over eighteen years of manufacturing experience to help companies c
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on Tuesday, 22 November 2011
in Insights

Plastic Bottle = Brick??

Using Plastic Bottles to Their Fullest

More than 60 million plastic bottles are diverted to landfills in the United States every single day! My gut reaction would be to ban plastic bottles indefinitely, although playing devil’s advocate, there are many times where filling a canteen or water bottle to satisfy one’s thirst just isn’t practical. So how can we minimize the quantity of bottles being sent to landfill?

Reduce / Reuse / Recycle

The 3 R hierarchy says we should first Reduce, then Reuse and then Recycle. Reduction can be achieved by bottle manufacturers going to thinner wall containers that use less resin during the blow molding process. Some companies are also exploring biodegradable materials to manufacture bottles, such as corn resins, which would decompose in landfills in 60 to 70 days versus petroleum based resins that take thousands of years. Lastly, companies are looking at chipboard with an interior coating as a possible option that would disintegrate in time when exposed to the environment.

The Importance of Reusing

We all know about the recycling of plastic bottles, so I want to spend a minute with the second “R” - reuse. This is such an important concept because it allows individuals to use the bottle in their existing form without having to use additional energy and/or natural resources to convert them into another product, which is a deficiency of the recycling process.

A Plastic Bottle House?

I came across an article the other day detailing a project in the village of Yelwa in northern Nigeria where scrap bottles are being used as the base material to construct the country’s first plastic-bottle house. Under the guidance of ECOTEC, a firm training the local masons in the technique, bottles are filled with dry soil or construction waste prior to being laid in rows like bricks prior to being bound together with mud. Sand is not used to fill the bottles as it would be an unnecessary expense. The bound structure produces a sturdy, well-insulated, and inexpensive structure that is resistant to both bullets and earthquakes.

It is estimated that 7,800 bottles were needed to build the inaugural three-room structure in Yelwa. The used plastic bottles were collected from hotels, restaurants, homes and embassies rather than being dumped into waterways and landfills like billions of other plastic bottles each year. These past primitive practices have led to pollution, erosion, irrigation blockages and health problems. What’s next on the village’s agenda - a 220,000-bottle school.

Other Creations Built With Used Bottles

This creative use of bottles is not a new innovation. Past projects using glass and/or plastic bottles include:

  • Bottle houses built on Prince Edward Island
  • 5,000 glass bottle house built by a woman in Russia
  • a schoolhouse built in Guatemala using 6,000 plastic bottles and
  • a massive building built in Taiwan using plastic bottles.
  • (See articles in Environmental Leader to learn more about these projects)

It’s refreshing to come across examples of individuals and communities being innovative with the reuse of materials. Not only does it keep items from being discarded into landfills, or in some less hygienic fashions: discarded into waterways, streets, oceans, etc., it doesn’t require the additional use of energy and other natural resources to convert them into new sellable goods. Start evaluating your waste stream and see if there is a creative way to reuse some of the items you were initially going to discard into a landfill.