Eco-bricks: upcycling non-recyclables

I am very conscious of waste in general, but in particular the plastic non-recyclable type, such as plastic wrappers and polystyrene packaging. For my vegetables, I use reusable mesh string bags made by Freshbag and I avoid plastic carrier bags whenever I can. Glass, paper, cardboard, cans and tins, recyclable plastic, and organics waste is all recycled in our house, so our bin ends up being filled with mostly non-recyclable packaging – my pet hate.

However, eco-bricks are a great way of upcycling all your non-recyclable waste into a cheap building material.

So how does it work?

Eco-brick

  1. Take an empty 2 l coke bottle or similar plastic bottle. Some projects take ANY type of plastic bottle, so double check first.
  2. Keep the bottle in your kitchen ready to be filled.
  3. Collect any non-recyclable (plastic) waste, such as plastic food packaging, chip packets, pet food pouches, polystyrene cups and trays, foil wrap etc.
  4. Either twist the plastic tight or cut it in small pieces and stuff this in the bottle.
  5. Push the plastic waste tightly into the bottle with a stick to compress it.
  6. Keep doing this until the eco-brick is completely filled and weighs about 500 g.
  7. Twist the cap back on and your first eco-brick is born.

Eco-bricks are a cheap, sustainable and highly insulating construction material that can be used in building projects, such as affordable housing, raised beds for the garden, park benches, boundary walls, and temporary exhibition structures.

The City of Cape Town is currently building an Early Childhood Development Centre in Delft, a unique project that showcases a hybrid of natural building methods, such as compressed earth bricks and cob, as well as recycled and upcycled waste materials, like eco-bricks, tyres, and glass bottles.

Today, I visited a local initiative in Noordhoek organised by local naturalist Karoline Hanks. Karoline got the local community to pick up rubbish mostly from the road verges and green spaces, and turn the waste into building material, i.e. eco-bricks.

You can start your own local initiative. Get your school involved. Organise beach clean ups or road verge clean ups. A great project to get the children involved in.

All the recyclable waste can be taken to your nearest recycling centre and all the non-recyclable waste can be upcycled into eco-bricks.

It helps not only to clean your local environment, but also assists those the building projects that use eco-bricks, as they need lots.

Drop-off points

In Cape Town, you can drop your eco-bricks at the Montebello Shop located in the Montebello Design Centre (31 Newlands Avenue, Cape Town 7700 – phone:  021 685 6445).

For more information on eco-bricks and waste management initiatives contact Waste ED or Eco-brick Exchange.

9 comments

  • What a brilliant idea!

  • Hi

    I would like to join the organisation .

    I live in Claremont.

    I am going 2 start making eco bricks stat !

    Thx 4 the info.

  • Is there a drop off point in the Durban area

    • Hi Glynne, there seems to be little info on ecobrick drop-off points in the Durban area, but I would contact Ecobrick Exchange for further info. If anybody they should know and otherwise you’ll need to start an initiative yourself 😉. Good luck!

  • I live in England is there anywhere I can send my eco bricks to be used?

    • Dr Louise de Waal

      Hi Linda, thank you for your message and wanting to join the eco-brick movement. I am not too sure where you can send your eco-bricks to in England, but I had a quick look online. There is a Facebook group called Ecobricks UK and an organisation called Waste Aid UK (https://wasteaid.org.uk/). Hopefully either of those can help you further. Good luck and happy eco-bricking 🙂

  • Good Afternoon, we have got about 900 ecobricks built/collected buy an ongoing project for our school pupils at Blouberg Primary School, Bloubergrandt, Cape Town.
    We would like to donate them ASAP, please see my contact details below or contact Yolande Watson 0828297359

    • Dr Louise de Waal

      Hi Yolande, thank you for your message and a lovely project. I have contacted a couple of organisations in Cape Town, who facilitate eco-brick building projects. However, at the moment it seems that so many people are making eco-bricks and not enough buy-in for actual building projects. Hence, storage of the eco-bricks is becoming an issue.

      Saying that why don’t you build something at the school with the eco-bricks the pupils have created. One of my contacts would be more than willing to assist. She said with 900 eco-bricks you could build two raised vegetable beds. You will kill two birds with one stone, as the kids can follow the whole process (from non-recyclable plastic, to eco-brick, to building project) and you will have the start of a growing vegetables or other plants project at the school.

      Please let me know if this resonates with you. Louise

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