• PSYV

Eco Bricks by Amy Baxter

This project is to design and build a structure made out of eco bricks. The structure will have many uses. It can be used to grow plants or be used as an educational space.

Learning Outcomes

  • To learn about sustainability through the use of eco bricks.

  • To make eco bricks.

  • To discover ways to use eco bricks in your local area.


Background

An ecobrick is a building block made entirely from unrecyclable plastic. It’s created by filling a plastic bottle with clean, dry plastic until it’s packed tightly and can be used as a building block.

Ecobricks can be used in all sorts of sustainable building projects, which makes them a great way to dispose of plastic waste that would otherwise end up in landfill, and potentially, the ocean.

The plastic in an ecobrick is very durable and will never break down, making it an ideal building material. They’re used in developing countries to construct furniture and even buildings, and they’re also used in the UK to build children’s playgrounds.

In South Africa there are many sustainable construction projects underway, including outdoor classrooms, community gardens and a composting toilet. In Guatemala there are a number of schools built from the plastic bottle bricks.


Ecobricks are a great way to recycle plastic that doesn’t break down and would most likely end up in landfill, or worse, the ocean. But there are lots of other great things about ecobricks:

  • Plastic is actually a very useful material – we’re just producing too much of it and disposing of it in an unsustainable way. The characteristics that make plastic so difficult to dispose of – its durability, longevity and water resistance – also make it a brilliant building material.

  • They encourage you to reduce your plastic waste. As you see how much rubbish you put in an ecobrick, you’ll see how much you’re throwing away. This can help you cut down on what you’re buying and ultimately produce less waste.

  • As well as preventing plastics from ending up in the ocean, ecobricks also save plastic from being incinerated. When plastic is burned, it releases CO2, generating carbon emissions and contributing to global warming.

  • The biggest advantage of ecobricks is that they take something that would otherwise have a negative impact on the environment, and turn it into something that benefits local communities

Step by step

1. Choose a bottle. This is really important because you need to get the perfect bottle to build the perfect ecobrick. The key thing to think about is size. Any size bottle will work as an ecobrick, but the average size tends to be between 500ml to 1.5l. You should also make sure that you’re using a bottle from a product that you use regularly – you don’t want to end up having to buy a plastic bottle just to make an ecobrick!

2. Prepare your plastic. Any plastic that you put in your brick needs to be clean and dry – any dirt can lead to microbiological growth and methane forming inside your brick. If you put dirty plastic inside your ecobrick it can make the bottle bloat and the cap can even pop off – not to mention it won’t look very nice!

3. Get a stick. You’ll need a stick to poke the plastic in your bottle down so you can fit as much as possible in! A bamboo or wooden stick will work best, and it should have a rounded tip to make sure it doesn’t pierce the bottle when you are squashing the plastic down.

4. What not to put in your ecobrick. Remember – the things you put in your ecobrick can’t be recycled or won’t break down, so be sure not to include metal, paper, card, food waste or glass.

5. Weigh your ecobrick. You need to make sure that your ecobrick is packed as tightly as possible to make it really strong. Bricks that are too soft can’t be used for building because they might not be robust enough. Plus, the more you fit in your bottle, the less plastic will be getting out into the environment! Obviously the weight of your brick depends on the size of your bottle, but as a rough guide a 500ml bottle should weigh around 175g when it’s full, and a 1.5l bottle should weigh around 500g.

6. Be careful not to overfill your brick. Although your brick should be packed full of plastic, it shouldn’t be pushing against the lid because it could end up making the lid come off.

What plastics can you put in your ecobrick?

You can put any type of plastic in your brick, but before chucking it in willy-nilly, it’s important to see if that type of plastic can be recycled in your area. The plastic that can be recycled can vary depending on where you live, so it’s worth checking with your local council exactly what they will and won’t accept. Any plastic that they don’t accept can go in your ecobrick.

Here are some of the items you can put in your brick:

  • Plastic bags

  • Photo paper

  • Crisp packets

  • Food containers

  • Straws

  • Plastic cutlery

  • Cling film

  • Plastic fruit and vegetable packaging

  • Polystyrene (or Styrofoam) – this is a petroleum-based product that can’t be recycled. Lots of products are made out of this including food containers and packaging.

Don’t forget that you can always cut up plastic to go in your ecobrick, even if it seems too big.


Find out more about the many benefits and uses of ecobricks at the Global Ecobrick Alliance. Watch their video here on how to make ecobricks.



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