Monday, September 12, 2011

House Built From Recycled Plastic Bottles

Photo courtesy: Andreas Froese/ECOTEC

Thousands of pieces of trash that would otherwise be clogging waterways and landfills in Nigeria have been turned into sturdy, and surprisingly attractive, construction materials in the village of Yelwa, where the country's first plastic-bottle house is drawing curious visitors and plenty of press. It's no surprise to me that these homes are attractive. I have always been a fan of the non-straight line. Nature very seldom does anything in a straight line; so, the attractiveness of a round home seems only natural to me. After all, my favourite car ever is a Volkswagen Beetle.

"Hundreds of people -- including government officials and traditional leaders -- have been coming to see how the [house's] walls are built in the round architectural shape popular in northern Nigeria," the BBC reported this week. I am not surprised that the round designs are sturdy. Domed doorways are known to be stronger than our modern rectangular ones.

The bottles are actually filled with dry soil or construction waste, not sand (an "unnecessary expense"), John Haley of ECOTEC, the firm that is training local masons in the technique, told in an email. They are then laid in rows like bricks and bound together with mud, producing a sturdy, well-insulated, and inexpensive three-room structure that is resistant to both bullets and earthquakes. Amazing, isn't it? With all our so-called cutting-edge technology, it takes discarded plastic bottles and mud to show us that sometimes the simplest ways are the best.

Photo courtesy: Andreas Froese/ECOTEC

"In Nigeria millions of plastic bottles are dumped into waterways and landfill each year causing pollution, erosion, irrigation blockages, and health problems. Bottle houses take this dangerous waste out of the environment and make it useful," the environmental blog Eco Nigeria wrote earlier this year as the construction was in progress.

Used plastic bottles were collected from hotels, restaurants, homes, and embassies starting in December 2010 to accumulate the estimated 7,800 needed to build the inaugural home in Yelwa following applications of the technique in India and Central and South America.

According to Eco Nigeria, the bottle house will be "solar powered, with a fuel-efficient clean cook stove, urine filtration fertilization systems, and water purification tanks, thereby making it energy autonomous." Next up: A 220,000-bottle school.

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