3 Trashy Ideas For Building Greener Cities

In a recent post, I highlighted a Swiss study that questioned whether or not recycling is really the greenest fate for plastic waste.

The reader response was passionate and varied, but one comment stood out: Care2 member Julieta S. wrote, “I think we should start making garbage bricks… some would stand for more than hundreds [of] years… right? (please steal this idea).”

While I had never thought of making bricks from trash, it seemed like a sensible way to build green structures using the ultra-durable plastic waste that’s causing our planet so much trouble.

Here’s what I found…thanks for the idea Julieta!

1. “Ecological Bricks” for Low-Income Housing in Argentina

Argentina’s Experimental Center for Economical Housing (Centro Experimental de la Vivienda Económica – CEVE) has developed a brick made of used food (primarily candy) wrappers and plastic (primarily PET) soda and water bottles.

The raw materials are supplied by Córdoba’s selective collection plant, collection points in schools and government agencies, plus rejects from the local bottling plant.

The plastics are ground up and then mixed with Portland cement and chemical additives to make the bricks (pictured above) and something CEVE calls “brick plates.” The CEVE project hires unemployed youth (between 18-24 years old) to make the bricks. The participants can use the bricks to build their own mini-houses (The Temas Blog).

2. “Byfusion” Machine Makes Building Blocks

It took a New Zealand man 10 years to put together a prototype recycling machine that could turn raw plastic into useful building materials, but now, the “Byfusion” machine is spitting out the building blocks of a multimillion-dollar business.

Peter Lewis’ machine can swallow most types of raw plastic and turn it into compacted plastic bricks or other shapes.

A new brick, formed from over 20 pounds of plastic, emerges from the recycling machine every 30-45 seconds.

The rock-hard bricks can be used for garden retaining or landscaping walls, and have other potential uses including shock absorbers behind crash barriers (Otago Daily Times).

3. Interlocking Polli-Bricks Made From Plastic Bottles

Earlier this year, Taiwan jumped to the front page of green websites all over the world when it was announced that a building commissioned by Far Eastern Group was built using bricks made from 1.5 million plastic botles.

These Polli-Bricks create an interlocking shape that’s light weight and structural at the same time.  When connected, Polli-Bricks almost look like a honeycomb. The building, dubbed the EcoARK, can be taken apart and reassembled at another side with relative ease, and was and later donated to city government in Taipei.

Do you know of other cool building techniques that utilize waste? Share them in a comment!

Image Credit: The Temas Blog


David Monroe
David Monroe6 years ago

Turning trash to treasure like this is great. The fact that the material does not biodegrade well makes this bad for trash but good for building the outer shell of a building!

Carol Cowbrough
Carol C7 years ago

What brilliant ideas. Thanks.

Josh Townsend
Josh Townsend7 years ago

Awesome ideas!

Yi Chen
Yi Chen7 years ago

I see that a lot of people are against this idea of plastic building material for concerns of getting burnt in a fire. I had a look at the Polli-brick and it's been treated to be flame retardant and UV-proof. There's a layer of lattice that covers outside to strengthen the structure.

If you look around the house, there are also others things that can easily catch on fire. Like curtains, carpet, furniture, PVC materials etc.

I think when it comes to sustainability, we need to be a bit open-minded and think outside of the box, rather than sheltering ourselves from new ideas. I remember there was an unnecessary uproar when we started to use recycled paper for tissues. Some people were concerned that the recycled tissues could be contaminated.

I know there's still a long way to go before we start to see houses built with plastic bricks, but the least we can do is to encourage more research into these designs. :)

James Fazerider
James F7 years ago

Of course, waste of a different kind, fly ash from coal fired power stations, has long been used as a bulking agent in "Aircrete" building blocks from which most houses in the UK are currently constructed. Another by-product of the coal power industry, gypsum, comes from the flue gas desulphurisation process and is used to make plaster.
It seems a surprisingly large percentage of our houses are already built from rubbish!

Past Member
Past Member 7 years ago

if you recycle the non toxic plastic for bricks then perhaps....if not recycling it for another purpose betting or eliminating it altogether better and stop using plastic altogether...

Walter G.
Walter G7 years ago

Sadly, regrettably, plastic and politicians will be around, even if they pollute. We'll ultimately need to plan to recycle both of them. Recycling plastics is costly. Recycling politicians, 98% composed of equine faeces, might be easier.

Walter G.
Walter G7 years ago

Of course, plastic itself exudes carcinogens. That is why so many of Bush's trailers had to be junked, their insulation was dangerous to health. The pollution problems would have to be addressed, but if countered, humanity might actually have use for recycled plastic, which would offset littering to a degree. Now if Mexico can find a way to use its prevalent litter, which lately seems to consist of piles of bleeding bodies and brass ammo casings, riddled windows and cars, they could build stuff out of dead drug lords and brass. Perhaps if the drug gangs corpses were cremated and mixed with epoxy . . . That goes for American cities also, only the nationality and ancestry of the bodies would change to protect the innocent.

Walter G.
Walter G7 years ago

Just consider that there floats in the Pacific Ocean, a vast floating island of raw building material. The problem is that getting an industry going to use it would put the traditional cement and wood mongers lower on the income totem poll. They'd have it legislated out.

Alexis M.
Alexis M7 years ago

I voted no to living in a plastic brick house because no information was given about ground water contamination. We know that cancer-causing chemicals are in many plastics. Why would we think that they wouldn't leech into the soil around the home , including gardens, and into well water? I say, not so fast!