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Give Your Plastic Trash a New Life By Building With ‘Ecobricks’

  • Ecobricks sequester plastic from the global waste stream.
  • The Global Ecobricks Alliance offers tips for creating, storing, and using ecobricks.
  • You can use your ecobricks in small DIY building projects.

    Plastic bags. Plastic forks. Plastic straws. All are non-biodegradable, single-use plastics that you can’t traditionally recycle—meaning that they inevitably end up in our seemingly never-ending waste stream.

    The good news? You can create your own “ecobricks” that contain the waste. And better yet, you can even get creative and build cool DIY projects out of your salvaged plastic bricks.

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    The concept of making ecobricks—basically sequestering plastic waste—gives you the opportunity to take responsibility for your own plastic consumption. Simply put, an ecobrick is a PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottle, packed solid with used plastics. PET refers to a type of polyester plastic typically used for common packaging materials, like Gatorade bottles.

    By cutting up plastic, say from a chip bag, and stuffing the bottle full, you can create and customize your own ecobrick to the proper density to turn it into a small building block. Sure, some folks have grand plans to use their blocks in furniture building projects, for example, but even if you aren’t planning to add on to your home with a wall made of ecobricks, they can still serve a useful purpose by trapping the small plastics in a confined space.

    As ecobricks gain in popularity, the simplicity of making them—and a bit of the artful touch, for those inclined—continues to attract new fans. From TikTok users to the Global Ecobricks Alliance YouTube videos, how-to steps are straightforward and easy to find. The Alliance folks even have a market where you can trade ecobricks.

    How to Make Your Own Ecobricks

    First, you need to save, segregate, clean, and dry any non-biodegradable plastic you want to use. Filter out glass, metal, and biodegradables and then select a bottle for the project. You’ll often need to cut up plastics to get them to fit in the bottle. Use some sort of stick or tool to wedge the pieces into the bottle, packing it tightly as you go. If you’re looking for a bit of artistic flair, be cognizant of the colors you’re choosing, layering, or mixing as you go to fit your desired aesthetic.

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    The weight of your ecobrick can represent the quality of your building project. The more densely packed it is, the stronger it will be. Remove space for air, and strive for a density of greater than 0.33 grams per milliliter at a minimum, meaning a 600 milliliter bottle (about 20 ounces) must weigh more than 200 grams.

    When you think your ecobrick is ready, the capping process is the key final step; leave between 1 to 2 centimeters of space between the cap and the packing material. Since the cap is the weakest part of the brick, pressure on the cap from the interior plastics can lead to premature cracking. A screw-on cap is the best choice for long-term security.

    The Global Ecobrick Alliance suggests logging each ecobrick with the weight, date, and any other important details, noting that enamel, oil paint, or nail polish all work well for this task. Once you’ve created your ecobrick, you’ll need a plan. If you’re simply storing ecobricks to avoid tossing single-use plastics, you may just be postponing the inevitable. The Global Ecobrick Alliance suggests using your creations as a modular furniture-building piece, ideal for simple projects such as backyard stools.

    For those with space to build outside, an ecobrick can serve as the foundation for earthen gardens or structures. Filling around the ecobricks with natural materials protects the ecobricks from the sun, offers a natural insulator, serves as a solid foundation for your project, and allows for versatility if you decide to do something different later on.

    So, as you meticulously craft that first ecobrick, have a plan for its end use. Maybe that earthen hut you’ve always wanted to build isn’t that far from reality.

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