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I’ve Been Ecobricking Here’s Why You Should Too

climate change

You may be unfamiliar with the term but ecobricks are a global movement.

Ecobricks are plastic building blocks created by filling and compacting clean, dry and non-biodegradable waste into plastic bottles. This waste can come from the home or as is the case around the world from rubbish picked up in the streets, beaches or other outdoor spaces.

These bricks are used to create furniture as well as building walls and other structures. This idea has been harnessed across the world where rubbish collection and recycling is few and far between. Guatemala, South Africa and the Philippines all host schools and other buildings built entirely from ecobricks.

Ecobricking originated from disgust at the amount of rubbish piling up around Lake Atitlan, Guatemala and has now inspired people on every corner of the globe to stuff their plastic waste into bottles too.

Where I live there’s no rubbish collections or recycling to be heard of. Rubbish litters the streets and is blown around often ending up in the ocean. So I’m already acutely aware of the amount of rubbish I create and do my best to reduce it. But in the name of research for a larger project, I thought I’d give ecobricking a try.

Why it’s so genius? National Geographic stated that since the advent of plastic in the 1950’s only 9% of plastic created has been recycled. Taking into account that plastic has an average life span of 400 years, most of the plastic created is still around today in pretty much the exact form that it was made.

This wholly underwhelming single-digit percentage is in part due to traditional recycling being very costly, time-consuming and well, difficult. The creation of brand new plastics, however, is significantly less costly, easier to manufacture and takes a lot less time — at least that’s what ‘Big Oil’ and it’s now fully grown daughter ‘Big Plastic’ wants us to believe.

Recycling also doesn’t happen the way we may expect. A plastic bottle won’t be recycled into a brand new plastic bottle. Instead, as plastic is recycled the new plastic decreases in value and becomes a lower form of plastic. Meaning that plastic is degraded in every cycle of recycling eventually leading to a completely unusable plastic that’s left to landfill.

Ecobricks however, use all the lower forms of plastic. The useless pieces — wrappers, crisp packets, sachets, bristles from your oh so bamboo toothbrush — are put to use. The Global Ecobrick Alliance also recommend you use some of the harder, tougher bits to add strength to your brick — all the better for building those loos.

By creating an ecobrick you’ll reduce the amount of rubbish ending up in landfill, blowing through streets and fields and in the oceans. Instead, these plastics are put to good use creating sustainable and community-driven building materials.

Where do I sign up?

You can start making your own ecobricks from your household waste — or if you’re like me you’ll become so obsessive about filling it up you start picking from the streets to take home to wash, dry and stuff. All you need is an old plastic bottle — I found those on the street too — and your rubbish. Make sure it’s clean and sorted so only the plastic and non-biodegradable stuff is left. I get so excited to stuff my bottle this stuff never even makes it to the bin — it’s much cleaner this way. Then simply stuff, cutting up all the larger pieces and harder plastics as you go.

As I think I’ve made clear, I really enjoy ecobricking. I look out for plastics I can use in my brick everywhere, pocketing rubbish daily. I find the process of cutting and stuffing therapeutic and meditative. With every item I stuff into that bottle I think about where this piece of rubbish came from and did I really need it to begin with?

You can sign up to GoBrik where you can log the ecobricks you create and find nearby projects where you can donate your brick too. You’ll be surprised even in countries with robust rubbish collections ecobrick projects are popping up all over as an ecological alternative to more costly — for the environment and the pocket — building supplies.

I was conscious of the amount of plastic I consumed before I started ecobricking. I’d choose a shop by its attitude towards packaging, buy my fruit, veg and meat plastic free — I’m lucky enough to live somewhere where that’s the only option — and as for everything else I found alternatives every which way I could. However, I’m shocked at the amount of plastic I still go through even with this level of mindfulness.

By ecobricking, you’re forced to take responsibility for the plastics you use and the rubbish you create. It’s a prompt to make you change your habits at home and in your community. It will open your eyes to your consumption and make you think twice if you really need those individually wrapped teabags — hint, you don’t.

If we could all take the small step to reduce and to use these innovative ways of recycling our waste we could begin to ease the burden of plastic on our planet. The amount of waste finding its way to our oceans and the amount of plastics leaching into our soil and water would be reduced.

 

This article was originally published by Hannah Evans, Medium.com