Eco Brick, What On Earth is it?

By Daire Cullen

If you’d asked what me what an Ecobrick is one month ago, I would have confidently answered ‘eco-what?’. I now have at least five of them filling up in my kitchen. So trust me when I say, you’ll be halfway through starting one by the time you’ve finished reading this. An ecobrick is an empty plastic bottle that is packed tightly with non-recyclable materials, particularly soft plastic until it becomes a strong and durable building block. Not only does it provide a use for all the non-biodegradable waste we produce, taking it out of the environment and out of landfills, it’s also a great way for up-cycling building materials cheaply. Plus, it’s incredibly easy so everyone should be doing it, no excuses! True, it’s not a long-term solution, ideally, we should be producing much less plastic (find out how you can do that here), but it’s an answer for the interim particularly when you compare it to the damaging environmental impacts of the normal brick-making industry. It is estimated that brick-making kilns in South East Asia alone release as many greenhouse gases into the environment as all passenger cars in America. Therefore the ecobrick provides one alternate solution to this problem.

Eco Brick stuffing
To get a better understanding of this sustainable building material, I spoke to Candice Mostert from Waste-ED, an organisation that aims to create awareness over the materials we use through educational programs.

“Ecobricking connects people with the materials that they are throwing away…we start thinking about what these materials are made from, where they come from and where they end up. And once we can understand these things we can figure out how best to redesign packaging for the future so that packaging materials don’t end up in our landfills and oceans but can be processed back into nature or be recycled in a way that adds value.” – Candice Mostert, Waste-ED

In 2013, the South African government funded a pilot building project, with the involvement of our friends at Waste-ED, in the Delft township of Cape Town to provide a safe, uplifting space for young children made almost entirely out of natural or up-cycled building materials. Largely constructed from tires rammed with earth, ecobricks were implemented into the design to showcase the aesthetic value they can add to building façades. With the building successfully completed in 2017, it is a trailblazer for future sustainable building projects, proof that with the right support and motivation, there are creative and realistic ways to reduce the impact we have on our environment. Beyond construction, the project was used as an opportunity for raising awareness in the area through community outreach programs.

Eco Brick building with tires
building with Eco Bricks

With such an inspiring and beautiful building project on Cape Town’s doorstep, the future of eco-bricks is only positive. So start ecobricking now! If you’re in Cape Town you can take your ecobricks to the locations listed below where they will be used for similar building projects.

Ecobrick Collection Points:

  • Shop Zero, 403 Albert Road, Woodstock
  • Nude Foods, 5 Constitution St, Zonnebloem
  • The Settlers High School, Settlers St, Belleville
  • Michel’s Bakery, Unit A2, 8 Honeywell Rd, Retreat
  • Kommetjie Surf Shop, 1 Erica Rd, Kommetjie
  • Wild and Waste free, 12 Glen Rd, Glencairn

what can I put in an Eco Brick
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