Initiatives aimed at ensuring the proper management of plastic waste are popping up around the world: from Kenyan boat builders to Colombian entrepreneurs, through major international businesses, all have come to the same conclusion: waste has a value, let us convert it into new resources.
How to serve two good causes at the same time: use plastic waste by converting it into construction materials and provide walls to those who have none! This was the idea that came to Colombian architect and entrepreneur Oscar Mendez: build houses for the homeless by recycling plastic waste. In 2014, after 12 years of research, the owner of Conceptos Plasticos, a small waste recycling company, developed a brick made from all sorts of plastic packaging, an ideal material for building low-cost housing. To achieve this, he purchases plastic waste from "recyclers". The waste is then ground up and melted down. The mixture thus obtained, to which additives providing the bricks with good heat resistance are added, is then poured into moulds which are then immersed in cold water to create the thermal shock which will harden the bricks.
PlonBuilding the shelters is an easy process: the bricks can be assembled like Lego bricks, by hand and without using adhesives. In fact, they are so easy to assemble that a 40 m² habitat can be built in five days with no prior knowledge of architecture or construction; ample enough reason to imagine this new type of building popping up everywhere.
Conceptos Plasticos currently have a recycling capacity of 100 tonnes of plastic per month, and aim to reach a rate of 300 tonnes per month, which would enable 50 shelters to be built every month. The company has planned to start building 600 houses per year to house over 3,000 individuals starting in 2018.
Walls made from plastic bottles
In Panama, plastic bottles clutter landfills and streets alike. By using this waste as insulating materials for housing, Robert Bezeau, the Canadian founder of the “Plastic Bottle Village” project, hopes to contribute to preserving the magnificent environment of Colón Island located in the Caribbean Sea. The houses are not built much differently from conventional housing, except for the way in which the walls are built: recovered plastic bottles are inserted into a fence-like structure made of iron and steel bars and then coated with concrete.
Reusing plastic bottles also enables houses to be built in record time and to keep costs down.The first house that was built contributed to recycling over 10,000 plastic bottles. The result is impressive, as they provide particularly effective insulation: the temperature inside the houses is 17 degrees lower than outside, where temperatures can reach 35° C.These constructions are also earthquake-proof.
A 100% plastic house
A unique house can be found near the Iguazu Falls in Argentina, the “Casa ecologica de botellas”. What sets it apart from others is that it is made entirely from recovered materials. To build their house, Alfredo Santa Cruz and his family used 1,200 PET bottles to build the walls, 1,300 bricks from food packaging to make the roof, 140 CD cases for the doors and windows and, finally, 320 PET bottles for the furniture. Even the bed was made using 200 PET bottles!
Household waste has a value
Alfredo’s intention is to show the enormous value of materials that are thrown away every day. “Household waste can be turned into useful stuff. We have developed our own technique, which enables people to build a perfectly functional house at a very low cost using their own hands.
The initial project has turned into a socio-cultural, tourist and environmental project. In return for board and lodging and payment of transport costs, Alfredo Santa Cruz now provides his know-how to all those requesting it in his country.
Flip flops abandoned on the beach
Because they have no value and no collection systems have been set up, millions of flip flops are abandoned on the Kenyan coast each year, either because they have washed up on the shore or have been transported by maritime currents all the way from Malaysia. It was to limit this rampant pollution that Julie Church, a young Kenyan biologist, decided to create the Ocean Sole company in 1997. She set up a flip flop collection initiative, in which flip flops are collected by hand on the beaches and along the rivers throughout the year. The collected flip flops are then given to 50 local artists who, with minimal resources, transform this waste into colourful and poetic sculptures. Through this initiative, Ocean Sole aims to reduce the pollution caused by the plastic waste, while raising awareness among the local population as regards not throwing things away and ensuring that they recycle.
At the same time, it creates jobs in a country that has been hit hard by unemployment. Ocean Sole currently employs around one hundred individuals, in addition to the locals paid for collecting and cleaning the flip flops. In 2015, 400,000 used flip flops were recycled: they have been given a new lease of life in the form of jewellery and animal sculptures of all sizes and colours. 70% of them are exported, purchased by private individuals, companies, zoos, aquariums and museums around the world!
Flip flops in the service of the environment
200,000 used flip flops, recovered on the Kenyan coast, will be used to make the very colourful coating of the hull of the boat for the upcoming Flipflopi expedition. The ship, made entirely from plastic marine litter abandoned on the beaches or transported by maritime currents will soon set sail with a message: do not dump plastics, take care of the environment. This is the aim pursued by British-Ethiopian national Ben Morrisson who is launching this expedition destined to travel 5,000 km along the coasts of the Indian Ocean with the aim of raising awareness among consumers with regard to the importance of their actions, raising awareness among population regarding the proper management of waste, and promoting recycling initiatives. He wishes to ensure that everyone fully understands the 3 Rs: reduce, re-use, recycle.
From fishing net to skateboard
Although flip flops and other plastic waste have no reason to be in the water, fishing nets are another matter entirely, except those fishing nets abandoned on the beaches and at sea! In order to reduce this pollution, the Bureo company - which means "wave" in Mapuche, the Amerindian language spoken in Chile and Argentina - has set up a fishing net recovery programme in several Chilean ports, giving the nets a surprising second life.The fishing nets are recovered through an initiative called Net Positiva, a fishing net recovery and recycling initiative that has the support of the Chilean government. Bureo Skateboards then processes the nets, converts them into plastic pellets that are subsequently moulded into a very specific skateboard, shaped like a fish, whose scales serve as grip. A clever nod to their origins!
15 tonnes of nets were recovered in 2014, and Bureo is now considering manufacturing sunglasses in addition to its skateboards. In two years of existence, the three friends have already recycled close to 8,000 m² of nets, bearing in mind that 2m2 of nets are used to manufacture a skateboard.
Eco-friendly sneakers: a solution to pollution
In 2015, Adidas partnered with Parley for Oceans, the NGO, in order to combat ocean pollution The German company successfully created the first pair of sneakers made from plastic waste recovered from the ocean floor provided by the NGO. The sneakers’ structure is made from plastic bottles and other plastic materials collected in the Maldives, while the “green” upper part is made from fishing nets. The equivalent of 11 plastic bottles is used to manufacture one pair of sneakers. According to Erman Aykurt, Senior Design Director at Adidas Original, the aim of the collaboration is “to create real awareness regarding the state of our oceans among Adidas Originals customers, and fostering discussions about eco-innovation”.