What is a Bottle Brick and what is it‘s function?
Bottle Bricks are a simple and accessible technology that can transform everyday plastic materials into a useful building material. Plastic bottles are stuffed full of trash until they are as compact as bricks.
Think about it: Bottle bricking is a recycling solution of sorts, which makes it good for the environment. But bottle bricking is not just a way to keep trash out of landfills and waterways. For some, bottle bricking enables them to have a better life: a life with shelter. Bottle bricks are used to build houses for people living in developing countries (e.g. Brasil, Ghana, Indonesia).
We made a survey and an experiment which you‘ll see as you‘re scrolling further down.
How to make your own bottle brick
All you need is an empty plastic bottle and as much non-recyclable plastic waste as you can find. You have to collect things like:
- Plastic food packaging
- Plastic bags
- Plastic straws
- Plastic foil
- Plastic cutlery
- And more!
Paper, metal, glass and other things that aren‘t plastic, don‘t belong in the bottle. If the plastic has food or dirt on it, you‘ll have to clean it before you put it into your bottle.
If you have completed these steps, you get to the main part: You can stuff as much plastic into your bottle as possible. Use a stick or another narrow object to pack it all down.
Your bottle brick is ready when you really can‘t stuff any more plastic inside. You can test it by standing on your bottle. If it‘s really hard enough it won‘t collapse, even when you are standing on it.
In the following video you can find a tutorial on how to make your own bottle brick.
We noticed that none of us were able to fill up our bottle in one week, so we decided, out of curiosity, that Leonie would go on with the experiment until her bottle was completely stuffed.
What you could do with your self-made brick
There are different organisations that are happy to receive your bottle brick donation. You can reach out via website, Facebook/Instagram. An example: The Natural Building Collective in Cape Town (naturalbuildingcollective.com). But if you do your own research you‘ll find many more.
We attempted to make our own bottle bricks. We decided to take a 75cl Evian bottle and fill it with plastic that we used. We set ourselves a time frame of one week in which we collected all our plastic waste and wanted to see how far we would get in that week. In the video above you can see our progress. By taking a photo of the bottle everyday we could measure our daily plastic consumption.
We created a survey via Kobo Toolbox to see if our project topic was well-known, to know how much plastic people consume and to estimate how important our project is for society. 58 participants answered our survey in the time span of about 2 weeks and we evaluated their answers as following:
How much one way plastic do you use per day? (e.g. PET bottles, wrapping paper)
Most people use 2 pieces of plastic per day. On average, people use 3.77 pieces of plastic a day.
Have you ever tried to reduce your plastic consumption?
Most people (15) think that reducing plastic is neither easy nor difficult. Almost as many people (14) found it difficult. The other participants didn’t try (12) or it was easy (9) for them.
Which of the following would you do to help the environment?
The result shows that not many people who answered our survey like the use of cardboard / paper straws or packaging. The usage of own bags, reusable bottles and tupperware is more likely to be chosen.
Would you be open to switching from plastic to reusable bottles (e.g. glass)?
Have you ever heard of bottle bricks before?
Would you like to make bottle bricks as well?
Would you be interested in following our bottle brick project?
How old are you?
We received the most answers from people aged under 18.
Which country are you from?
Quite interesting that our survey reached other countries apart from Switzerland!
You can find the link to our survey here. (humanitarianresponse.info)
Reflection on building our own bottle bricks
Throughout our experiment we learned how much plastic waste we produce in a week. One of us continued with the experiment until the bottle was full and solid. Because of this we now have an idea how long it takes to make a bottle brick. At the beginning of this project we had a hard time stuffing the plastic into the bottle because we didn’t cut it into small enough pieces. At the end it was much easier because we learned how small pieces had to be and how to stuff the bottle most efficiently.
Thanks to our project we now have an idea on how much plastic waste we actually produce and where we need to cut down on using one way products. In the future we want to be more resourceful and use more reusable products. Our goal is it to replace our single use products like PET bottles with more economic products like reusable bottles instead.
We are pleased with everything we have learned through out this project. The whole process of making bricks out of trash and then using them to build shelter and houses for people with low or no income. Learning the different ways trash can give people a better chance at life was very fascinating.
Project by: Luana Wäspi, Leonie Baumann and Alicia Ramos Ramirez
Reviewed by Belinda Burri, Luisa Ndue, parents
Links to infos/articles about bottle bricks
Bottle Bricks (engineeringforchange.org)
How to transform plastic “waste” into a bottle brick (shareable.net)
On-topic posts on dontwastemy.energy
Tiny Houses – An Environmental Movement
Ecological building – Spain vs Switzerland
Log Cabins in Canada
Avoid plastic waste! A self experiment
What happens with a plastic bottle after it’s thrown into the recycling bin?
Made of 200 million years old organics – plastics
Plastic Bags – only used for 12 minutes
How much waste is produced through shopping?