• PH group advocates new ‘plastic solution’

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    A movement called “The Plastic Solution” is working to eliminate non-biodegradable trash and promote ecological sustainability through the production and use of “eco-bricks,” recycled plastic bottles that can be used as building material.

    An eco-brick is a plastic bottle stuffed solid with non-biological waste in order to create a reusable building block. These are used to make furniture, garden spaces and even full-scale buildings. According to the movement, eco-bricks provide a zero-cost solid waste solution to everyone in the communities, which minimizes the effects of pollution in the environment.

    PROOF OF CONCEPT This wall took about 300 large bottles to make. Students of St. Mary’s School in Bulacan donated the eco-bricks. They and their teachers visited The Circle Hostel in Zambales to take part in the build and to learn more about sustainable practices in the fight against plastic pollution. PHOTOS BY THE PLASTIC SOLUTION VIA FACEBOOK

    Ziggie Gonzales, President and co-founder of The Circle Hostel and founder of The Plastic Solution explained that the organization was driven to make a move due to frustration over seeing so much plastic in the seas and in the environment.

    It was only last year when Gonzales conceived an organization to transform poisonous plastic bottles into something useful and eco-friendly. “It started simply as me pushing my team at The Circle Hostel to do eco-bricking on their own with the plans to make it a bigger movement online,” Gonzales told The Manila Times.

    The nature of plastic bottles

    Most plastic bottles are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the most common type of thermoplastic polymer resin, which is used in fiber for clothing, liquid containers, and other engineering resins.

    According to ecobricks.org, a worldwide movement that pushes the importance of recycling materials into something environment-friendly, there are different grades of plastic, and when these are recycled, plastics are most often down-cycled into lower grades. The lower the grade, the lesser the value, and the lesser the value, the less likely it is to be recycled again.

    Since plastics do not fit in the environment, it can harm and poisons living things, said ecobricks.org. For example, when plastics are burned, they create poisonous dioxin molecules. On the other hand, the UV rays of the sun cause plastic to break down into smaller pieces, which create harmful molecules detrimental to human health and the environment.

    Plastic molecules are harmful to human health because plastic emulates estrogen, which can cause severe birth defects, cancer, and other degenerative diseases.

    The plastic solution

    In order to eliminate non-biodegradable trash, The Plastic Solution movement was created to be able to prevent the poisoning of environment through proper reuse of plastic bottles.

    According to the movement, the ecobrick initiative began in the mountain villages of the Northern Philippines where plastics did not fit into rivers, forests, and fields.

    What is unique about the organization is that no any single government, grant, NGO or corporation was involved in its foundation or activities.

    Several sizes of eco-bricks, ready for use.

    Gonzales told The Manila Times, “There are many groups doing eco-bricks in the country and around the world. Eco-bricks are a way to minimize the impact of non-biodegradable trash in the environment by compacting the trash in plastic bottles and using them as construction materials.”

    The vision of the team is to eliminate non-biodegradable trash and promote ecological sustainability. “The mission is for this movement to snowball into a nationwide effort with groups starting their own eco-brick builds and community gardens in their communities,” Gonzales added.

    “We’re more of a movement than a group,” Gonzales claimed. “At the moment the movement started with me and then I involved my team at The Circle Hostel to get involved. We also have a small network of volunteers who serve as collection points or couriers for the bottles, speakers and advocates. We’ve also got a few schools involved.”

    The main goal of the movement for this year is to build 10 freestanding structures from eco-bricks, and put away at least 6 metric tons of non-biodegradable trash.

    “As the plastic solution, our activities are centered around awareness and pushing other people to start in their own communities. We also have a rainforest reforestation project that is being done in tandem with an indigenous peoples’ community,” Mr. Gonzales added.

    Struggles of the movement

    Since the movement has no sustainable funding, sufficient manpower of volunteers who are motivated to do this is also a problem. “Not enough people want to courier the bottles to drop off points or start their own builds. They want to do the simplest and easiest thing which is stuff bottles but not see it all the way through,” Gonzales explained.

    Also, due to the overwhelming number of plastic materials and bottles, having enough space for bottle collection, enough volunteers for couriers and other activities, and enough people starting builds in their own communities are the challenges faced by the movement.

    How to use eco-bricks

    • Use one brand or size of bottle at a time. 1.5L bottles make good benches.

    • 600ml bottles make good raised garden beds. Smaller bottles make good walls.

    • Using the same size of bottle per construction will keep things neat, strong and will minimize mortar.

    • Make sure your eco-bricks are actually ready: use only solidly packed bottles. Eco-bricks that have been damaged by rats don’t look so pretty, so use these for you bottom layer cement foundation.

    • Simple Coke bottle bench constructions don’t require steel bars. For walls over 5 layers high consider laying steel bars horizontally.

    • Store eco-bricks by stacking against a wall. Segregate by color. Avoid keeping in sacks to prevent rat damage.

    • Eco-bricks are laid horizontally either quadratically or hexagonally. Choose the pattern that best meets your intentions.

    Creativity and innovations are keys to transforming plastics into something useful and meaningful. For more information on how to transform plastic bottles into something purposeful, visit www.ecobricks.org.

    STANLEY GAJETE

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