JUN 01, 2017 5:34 PM PDT

How Colombia is building homes from plastic waste


Did you know that 75% of plastic packaging is single-use? In Bogota, Colombia's capital home to eight million people all those single use plastics add up to about 650 tons a day. And so instead of letting it all sit in a landfill where it will take hundreds of years to decompose, an architect named Oscar Mendez has founded an enterprise called Conceptos Plasticos to put some of that waste to good use.

But he's not doing it alone. Bogota has roughly 40,000 trucks that collect recycling around the city, going around neighborhoods to pick up reusable material. The difficult thing, reports the lead recycling manager at one of the recycling plants, is educating people to start recycling in the first place. After all, all that raw material is what Conceptos Plasticos needs to get down to work in the factory, constructing durable building blocks.

The blocks are produced mainly from household plastic waste, battery packaging and electrical waste such as old computers and TVs, all of which is broken up into bits through a super-tough blender. It is then melted and then placed into a mold which, when the plastic hardens, pops out a plastic lego block. These blocks act just like toy legos and the team at Conceptos Plasticos is able to construct houses with them, providing housing for low-income communities. The enterprise has designed these houses with the intention that a family of four could construct their own house with the building blocks in less than five days, for a cost of $5,000.
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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