Making bricks from recycled plastic for more sustainable housing

GreenBricks co-founders want plastics out of the oceans and landfills and into affordable housing for marginalized communities

Marc Mirella-Sanchez

Marc Mirella-Sanchez (BES in progress)

Marc Mirella-Sanchez (BES in progress) discovered something extraordinary on a trip to Colombia: a company building schools with bricks made from recycled plastic at a fraction of the cost of conventional building materials.

“I thought this could be perfect for Canada, South America – honestly, anywhere around the world,” Mirella-Sanchez says. Not only are plastic bricks more affordable than their clay and cement counterparts, they’re also more resilient. Plastic can survive between 700 and 1,000 years, he adds.

 

Entrepreneurship is a really risky thing and not a lot of people succeed. But we’re willing to go through everything because we want to help people.

Nathan Koo
 

Back in Waterloo, Mirella-Sanchez joined forces with a Nathan Koo (BSc in progress). Together, they made an award-winning pitch at a campus incubator, which resulted in GreenBricks.

Currently, only about 10 per cent of plastic waste is recycled in Canada. The rest is shipped to other countries as trash. Mirella-Sanchez and Koo hope that repurposing plastic for bricks will reduce landfill costs and mitigate its impact on the environment.

They want to see their product impact Canadian infrastructure. They are especially committed to finding solutions to the ongoing housing crisis faced by many Indigenous communities.

Nathan Koo

Nathan Koo (BSc in progress)

 

“I started GreenBricks to help low-income families afford a better place to stay,” Mirella-Sanchez says. “Without adequate housing, Indigenous people can’t possibly have the same opportunities.”

Koo says he approaches his work with a greater purpose of contributing to a better society for Canada and the planet. “We really feel like our generation has the last chance to save our Earth from being destroyed,” Koo says. “I’m really excited to get on the ground and see our first house built.”

Both co-founders credit GreenHouse at Waterloo’s St. Paul’s University College as central to their venture’s success so far. “Entrepreneurship is a really risky thing and not a lot of people succeed,” Koo says. “But we’re willing to go through everything because we want to help people.”

Future-Ready Talent Framework

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Marc Mirella-Sanchez says joining GreenHouse, a campus incubator for social ventures, helped him focus his talent and resources: “I didn’t know where to start with GreenBricks but they led me in the right direction to find the problem I needed to solve.”