Saving the planet is a priority for most of us. At Natracare we’ve got a lot of time for it! Trying to be more proactive about creating a sustainable future for the planet, 75% of people in the UK are actively adjusting their consumption to cause less harm to the earth.
Becoming less wasteful is a challenge. Especially when plastic is hidden in places we might never have guessed and feels so essential to our lives. But one trend that has popped up recently — focused on disposing of plastic in a more eco-friendly way — is building ecobricks. But what are ecobricks and why are they important?
What are ecobricks?
You might have heard about ecobricks recently (everybody seems to be ecobricking!), but what exactly are they? Ecobricks are single-use plastic bottles that have been cleaned out and packed tightly with other bits of single-use plastic to be reused as building blocks. Bricks that have been made out of recycled plastic help to extend the life of single-use plastic. Instead of ending its life immediately after one use, ecobricks avoid sending single-use plastic straight to landfill.
The history of ecobricks
Did you know ecobricks began in Guatemala? It started as a building technique to solve excess plastic problems in areas without an effective waste infrastructure. Soon enough, other countries like South Africa and the Philippines caught on!
What can ecobricks be used for?
Ecobricks can be used to build almost anything, from furniture to buildings — they’ve even been used to build schools! Building with ecobricks is a great way to reduce the plastic waste sent to landfill, extend the lifetime of plastics manufactured for single use and build more affordable infrastructure from pre-existing materials.
To ensure they’re a sturdy, reliable replacement for regular building materials, the weight and density of ecobricks is essential. Made of non-biodegradable plastics, ecobricks will never break down, making them suitable for permanent structures.
How to make ecobricks
We’re lucky enough to live in areas where recycling is rife and zero waste lifestyles are encouraged. We recommend only creating ecobricks as a last resort, where any waste you have is not able to be recycled!
Recycling plastic into bricks might sound complicated, but it’s actually easier than you might think! These easy to follow steps will help you get started:
Take a plastic bottle
When you start ecobricking, you’ll need to decide what plastic bottle to use. The point in ecobricking is to reduce plastic waste, so avoid buying plastic bottles for the sake of making plastic bricks. Instead, choose a brand of bottle that you often use already. The volume of your bottle is also important — most ecobricks are between 500ml and 1.5l but your size choice might depend on your project. Small bottles are useful when making walls, but larger bottles are more appropriate for building benches. Your bottle should be clean and dry before filling it with plastic!
Add some plastic
You can use any plastic in your ecobricks, as long as it is clean, dry and not biodegradable. The best ecobricks have a good mix of soft and hard plastics because this helps to make them more dense! To fill all the gaps in your bottle, it’s a good idea to cut big plastics into smaller pieces.
Pack it tight
Using some form of stick that won’t poke holes in your bottle, squash the plastic you put into your bottle down, so it is packed as tightly as possible. The aim is to fit in as much plastic as possible. Try to make sure there is no free space between your pieces of plastic.
Continue filling your bottle and squashing the plastic over time until your bottle is completely full.
Weigh your ecobrick
Once you think your ecobrick might be ready, you should weigh it to make sure it’s dense enough. A general rule is that the minimum weight should be 0.33g per ml. If your ecobrick is not heavy enough, it won’t be able to be used for building, so you should continue filling it with plastic until it is the correct density.
Start on your next ecobrick
Once you’ve fallen in love with ecobricking, keep repeating the process to avoid plastic waste going to landfill.
There are a few key rules to follow (like no glass, metal or biodegradables!) when you’re making ecobricks to make sure they’re usable when filled.
What happens next?
So, you’ve made your first successful ecobrick, but what do you do with it now? Ecobricking is community led, meaning that there are no officially designated ecobrick drop off points to donate you bricks. Instead, ecobricking projects in your community will likely list themselves on this map to ask for your ecobrick donations. Or, you could start your own project — like a new garden bench!
Have you been making ecobricks and have more tips on how? Let us know in the comments below!