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How to Guide: Bottle Bricks

Wed 16 Jul 2014

In the West we are so used to the rubbish man coming along and "taking away" all of our unwanted rubbish that we don’t really think about where it goes and what happens if there is no rubbish man.

Rubbish is creating a huge global problem. Millions of square miles in the ocean are full of it. Animals, dolphins, turtles etc are dying from eating it and yet we continue to throw it away without thinking.

Recycling is often transported long distances, even overseas, to energy intensive factories to be turned into something else.

We know we should recycle as much as we can in this country. But in the majority of the world there is little chance to recycle, so what else can be done?

Building with rubbish

When Nicola Peel visited Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, she discovered an organisation using rubbish to create bricks to build homes and schools. Pura Vida started by building walls using bottles filled with rubbish. This is a fantastic, simple, practical way to clean up a village. They always leave a small window to show that the wall is not what it appears but is in fact built with plastic bottles.

Off of the east coast of Bali is a small island called Gilli Air. The island still has no cars or motorbikes and life is peaceful. Their biggest problem is rubbish; some they ship off to recycle, the rest is burnt. Nicola visited the local school, where in one day, 340 large bottles were collected and filled with rubbish. The community is looking to use this method to build a whole new school. The beach was cleaned and every one was very excited about returning this paradise island to how it once was, free of plastic.

In Ecuador, Nicola coordinated the building of 3 small food outlets for a community out of bottles filled with rubbish. An ecological day was organised where the schools, colleges and government could come to learn. A competition encouraged everyone to bring bottles and clean up their neighbourhood. This event showed how this fantastic practical low cost solution can turn rubbish into a resource.

How to make bottle bricks

Anything inorganic, clean and dry can be packed in the bottles — plastic bags, batteries, straws and packaging. Even plastic cups, polystyrene plates, forks, spoons etc which are too large to enter the bottle top can be cut with scissors and pushed in. Using a stick to poke it all in, a huge amount can be compressed into the bottle until it is hard — like a brick.

Build a frame to keep the bottles in place and once the building is rendered no one would believe it is not made of conventional bricks.

All sorts of things can be made out of these bottle bricks: chicken coops, compost bins, benches. What else can you think of?

Nicola Peel is a full time environmentalist dedicated to environmental education and the balance and harmony of our planet. Contact her through her website