Future

“Bricks” Made from Trash and Plastic Being Tested in South Africa

This trash could be the key to a new kind of reusable construction.

A pile of unused plastic and waste could be the key to a new kind of reusable construction. They’re called Ecobricks, which are plastic bottles reinforced and stuffed with trash. 

The “bricks,” when placed together, form a sturdy support system that can be used in various forms of construction, like insulation. They were first used in Guatemala roughly 30 years ago as a way of recycling trash. 

“Ecobricks have been used in every fashion you can imagine, and what's nice about the testing phase here, is that we will be able to provide data to people all over the world to make more rational choices about how they use Ecobricks,” said Peter McIntosh, founder of Natural Building Collective. 

South African NGO Waste-ED has been testing the Ecobricks to see how well they hold up under various climate conditions. The “bricks” have been used in walls of different materials, from mud to cement.  

But the people behind Ecobricks say this is just a temporary solution to the global trash problem. 

“The source problem — not just, you know, the problem that there is waste around us and that it’s not very nice to look at — but rather dealing with the roots of it, that producing these types of non-recyclables isn't right, and that we need to be looking at either alternative products, packaging, or alternative systems where these products are being supported and either recycled or re-used,” Waste-ED’s founder Candice Mostert told Reuters. 

In 2017, South Africa produced roughly 48 million tons of waste, but only 11% of that was actually recycled, Reuters reported.