CREATIVE WAYS TO REUSE PLASTIC
By Becky Aud
There is no denying that our oceans are in an extremely poor state and that we, as human beings, need to adjust our lifestyles and clean up our act. If we want our planet, our lives and every living species that live here to be healthy, we need to be creative and innovative with how we endeavor to improve the health of our Earth.
The plastics that we have been using for so long are littering our planet. It’s estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish and other marine life. In efforts to deal with our plastic epidemic, some very creative and useful ideas have been put into action, at least by a few. Some of these inspired ideas include: making fishing boats, building homes, making Ecobricks™, building roads, making bicycles and wheelchairs, and creating art.
In Cameroon, fishermen are making fishing boats out of plastic bottles. At first, the fishermen thought it was a joke, but soon realized that the boats were safe and strong. The boats are not only inexpensive to make, but are a great way to stop bottles from clogging up the waterways. There are also places that provide individuals with the opportunity to go “fishing” for plastic. How cool would it be to go out fishing for plastic in a recycled plastic bottle fishing boat?
An Algerian architect is filling plastic bottles with sand and straw then using them to build circular homes for refugees in the desert. After the structure is formed, the bottles are covered in cement then painted white. This innovative and inexpensive way to reuse plastic waste helps protect people from the heat and sand storms.
In Mexico, plastic is being used to build houses that cost just $280. They range in size from 430 – 460 square feet and take just 7 days to build. These houses use 2 tons of recycled plastic, are well insulated and can last 100 years. Meanwhile, in the United States, 30 million tons of trash are thrown away each year and housing costs have sky rocketed. 38 million Americans can’t afford to buy homes. It might be time to follow Algeria’s and Mexico’s lead.
Closer to home, Michael Reynolds, an architect from New Mexico, is using cans, plastic and glass bottles, and old tires to build homes and evolve sustainable housing. His buildings are at least 50% recycled materials, absorb and use the sun and rain, use biology and physics, and give people sustenance. Reynolds claims it’s a better way of life – the way of the future.
Ecobricks™ are another medium for utilizing plastic bottles for building houses. An Ecobrick™ is a plastic bottle packed to a set density with used, clean and dry plastic to achieve a building block that can be used over and over again. They can also be packed with non-biological un-recyclables that, uncontained, are toxic to the environment (ie: Styrofoam, wires, small batteries, etc.). Ecobricks™ are being used to make modular furniture, garden spaces, walls and even full-scale buildings.
In the Netherlands and India, plastic waste is being used to build roads. In the Netherlands, plastic waste recovered from the oceans is being used to form modular block sections, like LEGO® pieces, which are laid together to form the road bed in place of concrete. In India, plastic gathered through recycling programs is cleaned, melted, processed and finally laid like asphalt to make roads. These roads could last 3 times as long as normal roads. The Dutch roads can also be recycled at the end of their lifecycle! What a novel idea!
Recycled plastic, cardboard and tires are being used to make bicycles. The bikes can support a rider up to 250 pounds; are lighter than a normal bicycle; are water and heat resistant; and are much less expensive - $20. The inventors have not stopped there. They are bringing an affordable wheelchair to the market as well. That would help out so many people! How cool are these sustainable ideas!?
Plastics are also being used in creative ways to make art and everyday items. Artistic items being made from recycled plastic include: vertical gardens, chandeliers, jewelry holders, lamps, Christmas trees, vases, and change purses. Plastic bottles have been used to create brooms, parking canopies, hanging planters, kids’ toys, pencil/marker/crayon organizers, ottomans, curtains, bird feeders, napkin rings and even solar lightbulbs. Plastic silverware has been made into lamp shades and chandeliers; and mosaics have been created out of bottle caps.
Many movements are actively working to educate us on the dangers and long-term effect of plastics in our environment. As sea turtle lovers, we are aware of the dangers of plastic straws and the eco-friendly alternatives. This article outlines a few examples where people around the world are working to effectively reuse plastics for improving our lives. Plastic perhaps could be considered a resource to be re-utilized rather than discarded. These innovative ideas are harnessing what would otherwise be wasted and further contribute to pollution of ocean habitats. In addition to recycling, skipping plastic straws and single use plastics, and consciously reducing our use of plastics, what kind of imaginative ideas do you have to reduce, reuse and recycle plastics? Let’s get inspired and resourceful, and in the process we can help sea turtles survive!
|A house made of recycled plastic in Mexico. The picture to the left is the finished product. The picture to the right is building in progress. Photo credit by advanceddisposal.com|
|A boat made of recycled plastic bottles. Photo credit by naturallynourshing.com|
|Another recycled plastic bottle boat. Photo credidt by deccanchronicle.com|
|In the process of building a recycled bottle house in Algeria. Photo credit by makewealthhistory.org|
|Finished product from above picture. Shawari Refugee recycled plastic home in Algeria. Photo credit by middleeasteye.net|
|Different sized Ecobricks™. Photo credit by ecobricks.org|
|Laying recycled plastic roads in India. Photo credit by indianexpress.com|
|Bike made of recycled cardboard, plastic and tires. Photo credit by wasteadvantagemag.com|
|Lampshade made of recycled plastic spoons. Photo credit by Yaroslav Olenev|
|Chandelelier made of recycled plastic bottles. Design and image credit by Michelle Brand blogilates.com|
|Mosaic out of recycled bottle caps. Design and photo credit by Lisa Be Vortex Project|