Earlier in the year, I came across this wonderful idea of making ecobricks* from plastic waste via a new UK Facebook group. If you’re clearing up after Christmas or starting to have a spring clean there is likely to be an abundance of excess packaging in many households, schools and businesses. I wanted to share the idea with you all again, to show you how you can reuse your non-recyclable plastic waste.
It is an innovative idea because it is something that you can do yourself in your home, your school or community. You do not need to wait for shops or governments to change policy to take this positive action to help the environment.
Many of us are trying to reduce our plastic use as much as possible, some even working towards zero waste, but today’s lifestyle does involve lots of plastic no matter how hard we try. Even when we recycle plastic, it still has a damaging effect on the environment, and there are so many items that cannot be recycled.
WHAT IS AN ECOBRICK?
This brilliant idea involves packing non-recyclable plastic waste into plastic bottles including bags, labels, cling film, tape, sweet wrappers, yoghurt pots, etc. When it is cut small and packed tight it becomes weighty and can then be used to build small home and garden constructions with.
Immediately it has considerably less net volume than if you just throw it away into landfill or the recycling bin. It also has a purpose. The whole idea is to use plastic as a resource rather than a throwaway item that becomes a blight on the environment. The Global Ecobrick Alliance are keen to disassociate this project from the idea of “waste”.
WHO SHOULD MAKE AN ECOBRICK?
I just love the idea of this both for personal use and as community projects in schools and groups. I started mine and filled a small bottle within 4 days! It’s shocking and has made me think even harder about how to reduce my plastic usage.
By introducing this idea to your friends, family and neighbours it is a great opportunity to spread the message of reducing single-use plastic. This is also a great activity for children to learn about the environment and progress their fine motor skills with cutting up and putting the pieces in the bottle (Yes I know, I’m always the teacher!)
USES FOR ECOBRICKS
They were originally invented for use in other countries but the craze has now hit the UK. Initially, they mostly seemed to be used to make seating and small walls in homes and gardens, but I’ve also seen an outdoor skateboard ramp constructed from ecobricks!
I’m sure as time goes on and this becomes more popular, people will get very creative and come up with all sorts of ideas of how to use ecobricks. People are starting to share their plans on the Facebook group and I’ve seen people are thinking of using them to insulate their green and summerhouses, or make into planters and even build a tortoise enclosure!
And of course, if you don’t think you want to use them yourself, how about making the bricks and donating them to a local cause. They are springing up all over the place now that word is getting out, just ask on your local Facebook group or check the list of collection points on the official ecobricks Facebook group.
HOW TO MAKE AN ECOBRICK
You can find all the info you need on ecobrick.org with lots of downloadable pdf guides and videos that will show you what you can put inside your ecobrick, exactly how to make them and how you can construct with them. There is so much information on this website including working out your PTR (Plastic Transition Ratio) by measuring your consumption against the production of your own ecobricks. I’m sure we will all be astonished at quite how much plastic we use.
As well as the official website, there is a brilliant interactive Facebook group for ecobricks in the UK, which offers support and answers queries. They have all the answers to most of your frequently asked questions which can be found by accessing files from a dropdown on the header of their Facebook Page.
IS IT EASY TO MAKE AN ECOBRICK?
I found that my first brick was a bit of trial and error, some pieces I cut too small, some too large. Unfortunately, my first bottle (pictured below), was not quite dense enough and had to be repacked tighter. This can be determined by weighing your bottle and checking the density on the website.
The best tip is to make sure that you push it down tight from the very start. I was amazed at just how much more I could pack in each time. I was able to use a wooden spoon for the small one but needed a longer piece of bamboo stick for the second larger bottle.
It is easy to make, but it is time-consuming.
WHAT DO YOU GAIN FROM MAKING AN ECOBRICK?
The most important thing I have gained from it so far is just how much plastic goes through our household even though I thought I was quite “green” minded. I am determined to try harder and to spread the word of this innovative idea.
It has led me to seek out more information on the internet about how to reduce my waste further and I have come across another wonderful group Journey to Zero Waste in the UK. It’s been a massive learning curve. Even if you don’t want to do this yourself I would urge you all to make just one so you can see how much plastic waste you create. It might make you think differently.
Who else is going to join in or share this idea with their friends and schools? Or have you already started making ecobricks, if so what are you planning to make? Please do share this to spread the word. You can make a difference.
Of course please try to reduce plastic consumption as much as possible by:
* Buying your fruit and vegetables loose or reusing the plastic bags that they come in each week.
* Or try growing some of your own fruit and veg.
* Taking your own containers for meat and fish at Morrisons where you’ll also receive bonus points.
* Take fabric shopping bags with you.
* Shop at one of the newer stores that sell loose dry food by weight and take your own containers.
* Use stainless steel straws.
* Use bamboo toothbrushes and cups.
* Buy a refillable water bottle, coffee cup or flask.
* Reuse ice cream tubs as lunch boxes that can be washed out after each use.
* Reuse larger lidded yoghurt and dessert pots for storage.
* Try out the new range of shampoo bars.
* Use a bar of hand soap rather than liquid soap or buy a soap dispenser which uses far less than if you pump it out yourselves.
You may also like to read more from my Art, Crafts, Upcycling & Eco section which features lots of ideas including:
* Please note there is no capitalisation on the word ecobricks.
Russell Maier, Regenerative Designer: “Our vision is to take the specialness out of ecobricks and make it normal.”
This post was updated for Blogmas18.