The trend of drinking bottled water over tap water has led to billions of plastic bottles cluttering up US landfills. The ever-increasing piles of plastic trash have led some inventors to come up with new uses for the unwanted bottles. In the United States alone, 47 billion bottles are discarded each year. That is a lot of plastic that could be put to better use.
German-based firm Ecotec Environmental Solutions has started crafting buildings using discarded plastic bottles. Unlike some uses that require energy to break down the bottle and recycle it into something else, this construction method uses the bottle as is.
The bottles are collected, filled with sand and stacked on their sides to make walls. The bottles are held together with cement mix or mud, depending on what material is available in the area. Ecotec currently constructs the buildings in Latin America and Africa.
Surprisingly enough, plastic bottles make a durable material for walls. Ecotec engineers state that the sand-filled bottles provide insulation and are 20 times stronger than brick structures, which makes them ideal for weathering storms, rain, floods and earthquakes. The bottle houses are even bulletproof, which is perfect for war-torn areas of the world.
Without any additional design elements, the bottles are exposed to the air, showcase their bright bottle caps and allow some light to filter through.
A standard two bedroom, one bathroom house with a kitchen and living room takes just 14,000 bottles to construct. The German engineering firm states that using plastic bottles reduces the cost of home construction by three quarters. Creating inexpensive, practical housing is a large problem in underdeveloped countries, and these plastic bottle houses significantly increase the number of stable, safe structures in these areas.
Other construction companies and engineers are experimenting with using plastic bottles as construction material, as well. Some companies are experimenting with skipping the use of cement or mud, and using roofing materials designed to hold massive amounts of weight. One designer was able to construct a building using just 8,000 bottles, which can support 30 tons of weight.
Third-world countries are not the only sites of plastic bottle construction. Construction companies in Japan, Europe, South America and North America are also creating sheds, office walling, greenhouses, benches and even complete buildings using plastic bottles as building materials.
Although the buildings are inexpensive to create, they are labor intensive using the current construction model. Right now, most companies fill the bottles with sand by hand, which is time consuming. Stacking the bottles takes a similar amount of time to building a brick wall, which can take several days to construct.
However, there is much promise regarding the use of plastic bottles as a building material. There is almost no way that humanity as a whole can reuse every plastic bottle manufactured, particularly when billions more are produced each year. More and more creative uses that can be thought of will help keep plastic bottle manufacturing from taking over the world completely.
Perhaps one day all buildings will be manufactured using recycled plastic bottles.
—The Alternative Daily