Ecobricks: How to Make a School

An innovative and inspirational campaign has been launched to recycle plastic into building bricks for schools. Each block, or Ecobrick, comprises a two-litre plastic drinks bottle packed full of non-biodegradable waste, such as plastic bags and crisp packets.

It's very simple to create an Ecobrick by packing the waste into the bottle as tightly as possible, using a stick to push it down. The lid is then replaced on the bottle. That's all there is to it! A simple plastic bottle becomes a building block to create an extraordinary green project.


© Josephine Chan and Ian Christie / CC BY 4.0

Innovative recycling

Ecobricks are being put to good use in the South African town of Greyton, where there's a lack of affordable housing, combined with an almost non-existent waste management system. It has become the first town in the country to begin building projects using the special bricks.

This represents a completely different approach to waste management. While the traditional recycling of plastics requires the use of energy, making Ecobricks is something that can be done locally, with no equipment other than a stick to pack the waste into each bottle. There are also no transport costs involved in taking plastic to a recycling centre, as the work is carried out locally.

Making Ecobricks is a simple way of turning plastic waste into a robust, insulating, affordable building material. The manufacturing process provides jobs for local people, so the system simultaneously tackles waste, unemployment and the housing shortage.

The blocks can be used horizontally, like traditional bricks, where they are fixed together with cement or clay. They can also be used vertically as a fill-in material in timber-framed building projects.

Eco-friendly schools

In South Africa, several eco-friendly schools are being built in Greyton, thanks to the Transition project, which began in 2011. One of the initiative's founders, Nicola Vernon, said the Ecobrick model has adapted well to the area. She has called it the best driver for social integration that she has seen in three decades of social welfare.

Greyton is to become home to a whole new eco-village settlement, including the schools. The construction project began in 2014 and has created 18 full-time jobs so far.

American musician and entrepreneur Joseph Stodgel heard about the recycling schemes in Greyton and visited in person to see how he could help. He visited the town's dump, at which he found the inspiration for the Trash to Treasure Festival (an annual music event hosted in Green Park), where bands play on a stage constructed from reclaimed tyres.

The first festival was held in 2012. People who had made Ecobricks took them along to the event and exchanged them for prizes donated by local stores. The bricks were then used for the building work taking place in Greyton. The festival makes recycling into a fun event.

New buildings

Ecobricks collected at the festival have so far built a toilet block and work is underway on accommodation and classrooms as part of the town's recycling drive. It has become known as Greyton Transition Town as a result of the numerous recycling initiatives taking place.

The schemes have uplifted the local community, bringing people together, highlighting the problems of waste and doing something positive about recycling it. The community spirit has become a positive force in sustaining the many initiatives underway, as the town aims for a zero-waste policy in the future.

Swap shops

Four swap shops have opened in the local community, where 700kg of recyclable waste is collected weekly. Local people taking waste to the swap shops receive essential items such as blankets, food and clothing in return.

Ambitious plans to create the village and schools from Ecobricks are continuing. The idea has also taken off in other parts of the world and has saved many local communities by providing work and building materials. In Panama, work is underway to build an eco-village, comprising 120 homes and a shop.

Ecobricks have been used to build schools in the Philippines since 2010.

The unique building material is fast becoming a global phenomenon!

As a responsible provider of plastic products, Solent Plastics supports recycling initiatives and believes in creating an eco-friendly society.

We sell Euronorm ECO recycled plastic Euro containers made from recycled polypropylene. We also stock recycling waste bins to help schools, industry, businesses and individuals with their own recycling initiatives.

For more information, email or call us on 01794 514478.