At a glance 2 min

Schools made from recycled plastic bricks

A few years ago, a small plastic waste recycling company developed a brick made from used plastic packaging of all kinds - an ideal solution for building low-cost housing. (
Schools made from recycled plastic bricks
© UNICEF/UN0315294/Frank Dejongh
Schools made from recycled plastic bricks

Since then, Conceptos Plasticos has been emulated and has exported its concept of bricks made from recycled plastics to Côte d'Ivoire where they are used to build schools. In Gonzagueville, located in an overpopulated suburb of Abidjan, kindergarteners have started learning in this new generation of classroom.

Making up for the lack of schools

For the time being, two new schools have been built in one of the country’s regions experiencing a shortage of schools. While some Ivorian villages in the northwest of the country simply do not have any classrooms, others do not have the right materials. Over time, fragile classrooms made from bamboo, tarpaulins and earth quickly deteriorate and collapse during the rainy season. The plastic bricks, however, are designed to last and are more in tune with the realities of the country. The grey material is described as being resistant to extreme weather and easier to use than traditional cinder blocks since they interlock like Lego bricks, making the classrooms stronger and able to be built in just a little under one month.

There is an enormous need for classrooms in Côte d'Ivoire. The country requires 15,000 classrooms to accommodate all the children currently deprived of a place in which to learn.

A partnership with UNICEF

To carry out its project, Conceptos Plasticos teamed up with UNICEF, which was impressed by this intelligent and scalable solution to an educational, environmental, and social challenge. As UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore explains, its purpose is threefold: "more classrooms for children in Côte d’Ivoire, less plastic waste in the environment, and additional sources of income for the most vulnerable families".

Converting plastic pollution into an opportunity

The bricks used to build the 9 classrooms in Gonzagueville and in two other villages were manufactured in Colombia, demonstrating the viability of the Colombian method and the construction materials used.

They are made exclusively of collected plastic waste and are fireproofed. They are 40% cheaper than traditional building materials, 20% lighter, and last centuries longer. In addition, they are waterproof, well insulated and designed to withstand high winds.

However, the future batches of bricks will be "Made in Côte d'Ivoire" since, in late September, the United Nations agency broke ground on the construction of a plant that will convert the plastic waste collected in Côte d’Ivoire into modular bricks.

At full capacity, the plant is expected to recycle 9,600 tonnes of plastic waste per year and will provide a source of income for women living in poverty through the emergence of an official recycling market. Currently, only 5% of the 280 tonnes of plastic waste produced each year in Abidjan is recycled, the other 95% ending up in landfills in poor neighbourhoods. This pollution only further exacerbates the pre-existing hygiene and sanitations problems. Poor waste management is responsible for 60% of all cases of malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia in children, diseases which are among the main causes of child mortality in Côte d’Ivoire.

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