What are Eco Bricks?

Having grown up in a developing country, I have been a witness to various socio-ecological issues. One of them being waste management.  

As I grew up and gained knowledge about climate change and environmental degradation, I realized that leadership at the organizational and governmental level was essential if household efforts like waste segregation are to make a difference. I remember my family segregating their waste, but it proved to be irrelevant since the waste collectors would put it all in one pile.  

When I came to the University of Waterloo for my undergraduate degree in the school of Environment, Resources, and Sustainability, I had the opportunity to learn more about waste management and various environmental issues concerning waste. I wanted to learn more about what can be done in my home country to reduce the amount of waste going to landfills and what my country could do to better manage their waste. During my research, I came across Eco Bricks.  
 
What are Eco Bricks?  
 
An eco brick packages all non-recyclable or compostable waste into a single-use plastic/ PET bottle, leaving as little air and space as possible. It is often talked about as a unique solution that helps address pollution and single-use plastic PET bottles. The collected bottles can then be used in construction - for example of furniture or walls. I personally love the concept of eco bricks as an alternative to plastic pollution and making an eco brick is simple and does not require any advanced skills. Nevertheless, there are a few important considerations to keep in mind. For instance, only clean, dry, and non-recyclable plastics can go in. 
 Materials in ecobricks
Are Eco Bricks Actually Sustainable? 
 
There are still some key questions around the eco bricks and how sustainable they are. They are a creative way to repurpose plastic waste. Sometimes, however, if they are used in construction, they may be part of a concrete wall that has significantly higher carbon emissions than comparable materials.  Further, many plastics are sensitive to ultraviolet light and will break down when exposed to the sun (Mouton, 2019). So, the use of plastic might not be an ideal building structure for outdoor models.  

So, my take on this would be that eco bricks may seem to be a great idea to tackle plastic pollution at first, but the long-term impacts still need more information. To tackle this, eco bricks could have a unique use for small DIY projects or to build indoor structures like furniture rather than buildings or outdoor structures. 

 
How to Build an Eco Brick? 
 
Step 1: Collect all your waste and find a project 
Eco bricks are created from clean and dry waste. So, start by collecting all non-recyclable waste. Wash and dry them to avoid any microbial growth (Global Ecobrick Alliance, n.d.). Before moving onto step two, you should find a project to contribute towards to ensure that the bottle is being used rather than being sent to the landfills. Then move onto step 2. 

Step 2: Select a plastic bottle 
While building a structure from eco bricks, bottles of identical sizes are required for maintaining a sturdy structure as consistency is essential with eco bricks (Global Ecobrick Alliance, n.d.). Therefore, once you select a bottle, stick with the same size for the future (Global Ecobrick Alliance, n.d.).  
Once you have selected your bottle, make sure to clean and dry it thoroughly before moving to step 3.  

Step 3: Add waste into the bottle 
Take your clean, dry bottle, and start adding your waste into it. Using your stick, start releasing all the air from the bottle.  

Step 4: Pack tightly throughout the process to ensure it is compressed 
As you progress, make sure all the plastic is tightly compressed using your stick  

Step 5: Put the lid back on  
Once the entire bottle is filled and the waste is tightly compressed, secure it with the lid and your eco brick is ready! 

The Global Ecobrick Alliance has published a detail guideline on steps to making an Eco brick.  
 
Eco Bricks in Use 

Guatemala was one of the first places which began using eco bricks. In 2018, an NGO collected 36,000 eco bricks to build a school. These bottles were used in place of conventional bricks and were tied together using chicken wire. The Times of India had published a great article to learn more about the various eco brick initiatives around the world. 
 
Now what?  
In my journey to better understand waste management within Canada and my home country, I think eco bricks could pose to be a viable solution for waste management if used for small indoor projects, but they may not be the best choice to build outdoor structures that might be exposed to the sun or other intense weather conditions as it could threaten the structural integrity of the building. 

With the current state of the pandemic and more time being spent at home, I encourage you to spend some of your free time creating eco bricks to help tackle plastic waste!  

 
Want to learn more? Here are a few additional sources 
 
Global Ecobrick Alliance: a detailed guide to knowing everything about eco bricks 

Vision Ecobricks Intro Movie-- A 2 minute Introduction:  Implementation of eco bricks in a school  

 

 

References:  

Mouton, S. (2019, July 25). Are ecobricks the answer to plastic pollution? Phys.org. Retrieved January 24, 2022, from https://phys.org/news/2019-07-ecobricks-plastic-pollution 

Manchanda, S. (2021, August 12). Plastic packets, snack wrappers, Glittery Paper: Upcycle Trash into ecobricks - times of IndiaShivizzzhttps://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/home-garden/plastic-packets-snack-wrappers-glittery-paper-upcycle-trash-into-ecobricks/articleshow/85241154.cms. The Times of India. Retrieved January 24, 2022, from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/home-garden/plastic-packets-snack-wrappers-glittery-paper-upcycle-trash-into-ecobricks/articleshow/85241154.cms 

Global Ecobrick Alliance. (n.d.). Plastic transition. Plastic Transition. Retrieved February 4, 2022, from https://ecobricks.org/ 

 

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