The good news is that Marc Mirella likes surprises. The 3rd year environment and business student often begins pitches about his company, GreenBricks, by telling audiences the surprising fact that 91% of all plastic put in blue boxes in Canada ends up not being recycled but thrown away.
Through GreenBricks, Marc hopes to change this. This past month, with funds he received as winner of the People’s Choice Award at the GreenHouse’s Social Impact Showcase last summer as well support through the Social Impact Fund, he traveled to Columbia, with his friend and fellow social entrepreneur Lucas Moffitt, to visit a company that turns otherwise-unrecyclable plastic into bricks that can be used to build houses.
“It was nothing like what I expected,” Marc said. In fact, the company he had hoped to tour had moved locations and had shifted their work to building schools rather than houses. Marc only found this out after an hour-long taxi ride to the former company headquarters.
This wasn’t an enjoyable surprise. On the ride back into Bogota, he wondered whether his idea of turning Canadian plastics into bricks that could be used to build houses in developing countries was a good one.
But the meetings over the next few days with a polymer engineer who took them to visit plastic recycling facilities validated and refined Marc’s idea.
He returned to Canada brimming with ideas for how to better prototype his ideas. His next steps are to apply for funding to purchase equipment that will grind, melt and mould plastic so that he can prototype bricks and sell them to nonprofits in Canada and overseas that currently use wood to build houses. His goal is to build five houses before he graduates in two years.
“When I talk with people in the entrepreneurship field,” Marc says, “they’re always surprised because this idea is so different from the apps and websites they often hear about.” He’s in constant conversation with GreenHouse coaches, other students who are volunteering with GreenBricks, waste management staff at UWaterloo and others in the entrepreneurship field.
He’s also integrating GreenBricks into his class projects and participating in a hackathon that is looking at plastics at the university. In all these conversations, Marc continues to surprise people with a simple but effective use for all the plastics around us.