With great difficulty, I am trying to write about the huge surge in awareness around plastic waste without citing Blue Planet 2. The fact of the matter is that the BBC-produced documentary shed a beacon on the growing concern around plastic waste, more specifically single use plastics, and brought the important conversation well into the mainstream.
I consider myself to be quite knowledgeable and well read when it comes to plastic waste, having worked in the industry prior to SustainIt. However, as evidence suggests, this is a massive growing problem that needs to be combatted and reduced. And recently I was introduced to a new method – the ‘Ecobrick’. This is a new method being used in households and schools all over the world, focussing on keeping single use plastic out of landfills. So feeling inspired, I thought I would give it a go.
Founded 10 or so years ago, the Ecobrick idea is a simple one. Compact as much single-use plastic from your day-to-day life as you can into one bottle, until it starts resembling a brick shape and becomes sturdy enough to construct something.
Through this short blog I wanted to document my experience and help to spread some awareness of one of the many things that is being championed by us, the consumers of plastic waste.
Living in a shared house with three others, it was eye opening to see how quickly our empty 1.25ltr detergent bottle filled with multi-coloured layers of plastic. The Ecobricks website provides full instructions as to how to construct and then use your alternative construction material. Using the formula for the, minimum Ecobrick weight on their website, “Bottle Volume x 0.33”, our aim was to get at least 412.5 grams worth of plastic compacted in, using only a trusty wooden spoon. To achieve this quickly, the plastic has to be compacted down into the bottle, as much as possible, at the very beginning of the brick’s construction. To help this along, you also need to cut up the larger pieces of plastic before putting them into the bottle. This is something we learned the hard way, when we were unable to add to the 380 grams we reached due to uneven compacting. Pulling the plastics back out is not nearly as much fun as getting them in in the first place, as the picture below can testify.
Armed with this knowledge, the second attempt was a complete success, weighing in at a mighty 423 grams with a consistent density from top to bottom.
Before fully researching the movement, I was concerned about the amount of carbon it would take shipping Ecobricks to far flung countries, as cheap alternatives to much needed building materials. But I quickly learned that Ecobricks, although part of a growing global movement, are predominately being used in by local communities. Examples of Ecobricks being used in the UK can be found on the website. They have been used in schools and community centres for gardens and furniture building.
The movement emphasises taking personal responsibility for our own use of single-use plastic and not leaving it to others.
For me, I do think it’s going to revolutionise the way we use – and see – plastics. Ecobricks are another example of the general public taking responsibility for waste, whilst spreading much needed awareness around the misuse of plastics.
Stories from other countries may provide more cause for optimism. For example, “In the Northern Philippines, Ecobricking spread through the entire school system, involving 250,000 students, within one year”. Not just an awareness raiser and conversation starter, Ecobricking is a great example of reactive circularity in action: making sure materials’ lifecycles are extended through reuse of the materials. Following the construction of my first Ecobrick, I want to challenge SustainIt to do the same (check our Instagram to see how we are getting on) and see how close to 0% to landfill we can get in 2019. Wooden spoon and scissors at the ready!
By Callum Rees, Account Manager