Ian Dommissee is the “Garbage Warrior”, one of the founders of the EcoBrick Exchange, and their resident architect. The EcoBrick Exchange has a creative solution to the problems of waste and community development facing South Africa – a solution we at the Two Oceans Aquarium can get behind.
This Plastic Free July, we’ve already discussed how you can Rethink the Bag, find alternatives to disposable plastic products and the dangers posed by single-use plastic. But what can you do about the plastic that is already in your life, or the items you are unable to switch for alternatives?
What if there was a dead simple way to turn your waste into green construction material and keep it out of our ocean and landfills? Meet the EcoBrick.
What is an EcoBrick?
An EcoBrick is a plastic bottle packed tightly with non-biodegradable waste. These bottles are then used as building materials to create sustainable homes, schools and furniture.
Making an EcoBrick is easy:
- Collect your clean and dry household waste. We recommend only waste that you cannot recycle (like dog food bags), but you can EcoBrick anything non-biodegradable and dry.
- Twist your waste and insert it into a 2L bottle. Compress it as tightly as you can with a stick.
- Keep doing this - make sure your bottle is unsquishable.
- Think your EcoBrick is done? If you can squeeze it by more than 10% with one hand you should add more waste.
- No longer squishable? It's done! Celebrate and contribute your EcoBrick to a project.
Making EcoBricks is not about encouraging the production of plastic, but rather a temporary means of protecting the environment while us humans figure out a way to cut plastic out of our lives altogether.
EcoBricking is simply a case of forming a habit - rather than throwing your wrapper in the bin, just stuff it in a 2L cooldrink bottle that you keep next to your sink or bin. The EcoBrick Exchange only uses 2L PET bottles, as these are a standardized size that makes large building projects more consistent, but you can make smaller or oddly shaped ones for personal projects.
Even if you don't habitually recycle, this is an easy way to make a small impact.
Forming the habit of EcoBricking your waste is a giant step towards a zero-waste lifestyle. When families first make EcoBricks and witness how their waste output halves, they're much more likely to continue the trend in other aspects of their lives, e.g. start composting their organic waste and recycling the rest of their waste.
All of a sudden a family that sent heaps to landfill, now throws away very little and can enjoy the benefits that accompany each habit.
What can I do with a completed EcoBrick?
Hand it over to the EcoBrick Exchange and help a disadvantaged community
There are a number of drop-off locations across South Africa where you can take your completed EcoBricks.
- Greenpop Nursery (Woodstock)
- Cobute (Table View)
- Hanger 18 (Milnerton)
- Faithful-to-Nature (Muizenebrg)
- Salt (Kalk Bay)
- The Hub Café (Scarborough)
- Long Beach Mall (Noordhoek)
- MFM Radio (Stellenbosch)
- Montebello Design Centre (Newlands)
- Gugu S’thebe (Langa)
- Health Connection (Fish Hoek)
- The Daily Grinder (Simon’s Town)
- Foragers (Scarborough)
- The Re-trade Project (Walmer, Port Elizabeth)
- Wecreate (Maboneng, Johannesburg)
- Mamelodi West Community Hall (Pretoria)
Get creative at home
Feeling attached to your EcoBrick? Use it to upgrade your garden, or build some sustainable furniture. Here are some creative ideas about how you can use your EcoBrick:
Work with your friends to create even bigger projects
The EcoBrick Exchange looks for organisations and existing projects on a community level and challenges them to take part. These projects are supported by the EcoBrick Exchange, which will facilitate setting up a drop-off point in these communities and help them to collect enough EcoBricks to complete their projects.
In this way, the positive impacts of this type of construction and waste reduction method can be spread across South Africa. The EcoBrick Exchange is excited to embark on collaborations nationwide.
Get started with your EcoBrick today!
What are you waiting for? Turn your next 2 litre bottle into an EcoBrick and see how that changes the way you think about waste.
The EcoBrick Exchange has grown from an organisation focussed on ways to build preschools and community centres in under-privileged areas of South Africa, to one that now supports a multitude of micro-projects that are easier to implement in smaller communities.
The EcoBrick Exchange believes that change starts at home – your household waste is the first step in a chain that will eventually empower a child or community. As your EcoBrick moves up the chain, community members are upskilled, learning how to develop projects and carry out construction. All this can be accomplished within a community – from waste collection to project completion.