BUILDING NEW ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS, ONE ECOBRICK AT A TIME
As a major manufacturer of PET bottles and preforms, Indorama Ventures Packaging (Philippines) Corporation
– Misamis Oriental Plant is one of the company’s earliestpackaging sites outside of Thailand. Its location in Northern
Mindanao can produce 17,000 tonnes of material per annum, mostly for beverage companies – but its value to the
community and to the wider environment is far greater thanthese numbers would suggest.
From November 2018 to March 2019, seven volunteer employees from the plant worked alongside the Local
Government of Villanueva on a project designed to raise awareness regarding plastic waste and environment pollutants. The project used ecobricks, made out of plastic PET bottles, as construction materials to help decorate community spaces.
WHAT ARE ECOBRICKS?
Ecobricks are used PET bottles which have been cleaned and dried, then filled with plastic to a specific density. They are then sealed with an ordinary cap, at which point they become hard and durable enough to be used as construction material.
One of the standard environmental concerns surrounding plastic production is that it can last for centuries before
degrading. But when repurposed in this way, its durability becomes a distinct advantage. Each plastic-filled ecobrick canremain effective as construction material for up to 300-500 years if kept away from sunlight.
When used with concrete, each ecobrick becomes a functional building block as well as a decorative design flourish, with the added bonus of drawing attention to plastic as a material in relationship to our living environment. By creating a new and intriguing ‘second use’ for each plastic bottle, ecobricks inspire people to reimagine plastic bottles as items that continue to endure long after their primary use has been fulfilled – and can be repurposed rather than just tossed away and forgotten. Of course, the more that plastics are reused or recycled, the less space they will take up in landfills and other disposal areas. Ecobricks are a recent invention, having evolved conceptually from the kind of sand-filled PET bottles that began to appear in community-based construction projects less than two decades ago. The first practical guide to building modern ecobricks appeared in the Philippines in 2010, and was distributed among local schools. It was embraced by the country’s Department of Education, and eventually sent to 1,700 schools around the country in 2014.
During the same period, an international ecobrick movement spread across several countries in Africa, Asia and America. Communities taught themselves effective ways to produce long-lasting ecobricks, while also learning about the properties of plastic within our ecosystem.
BUILDING BLOCKS FOR THE IMAGINATION
Durable, colorful and plentiful – ecobricks can be used in the construction of ordinary houses and buildings, but they are equally well suited to wall decorations, indoor furniture, park fixtures, and any other constructions the mind can imagine. Known as the Villanueva Ecobrick Boulevard Project, local government officials worked alongside Indorama Ventures employees to create a wide range of attractive new public features. As a result, the tropical community now enjoys numerous colorful decorative features in its parks, benches and walkways – and more importantly, the project has raised awareness of ecobricks among the local population, which is now beginning to experiment with building their own inventive ecobrick-based structures.
The educational aspect of the project was always one of its central aims. By encouraging local residents to collect plastic waste and convert it to ecobricks, the surrounding area saw an immediate environmental benefit. This improvement was welcome indeed, but it could only be sustained by demonstrating to the community that plastic
had far more value as a building tool than as a waste product. The incredible educational and environmental potential of Villanueva’s ecobrick project made it a perfect fit for our company’s mission and values. Our own goal of sustainable production and environmental responsibility depends on working closely with communities to promote responsible solutions that can reduce waste. By sharing the recycling and repurposing potential of our products, we can help to create a cleaner world for ourselves and for future generations. In this project, roughly 10,000 PET bottles were donated and then converted to ecobricks through a process now widely known and practiced throughout the area. The collection of bottles and their conversion into ecobricks created work opportunities, as did the design and construction of each decorative element of the project.
Moreover, successes such as these provide a model for other communities to create similar green spaces and promote proper waste management. Indeed, the concept has already proven to be highly successful elsewhere. Ordinary people in destinations as diverse as Argentina, Serbia, and elsewhere in the Philippines have taken the initiative and turned their homes into bona fide tourist attractions simply by integrating ecobricks creatively into their front steps, beds, walls, gardens and coffee tables.
A man in Nicaragua, disturbed by the buildup of plastic waste in his community, used ecobricks to revamp his hotel. Soon, dozens of local schools nearby copied his methods, and helped turn his community into one of the cleanest in the country. A resident of New Mexico, USA, decided to launch ecobrick workshops while setting up new construction projects to use them. As a result, riverbanks are being cleaned up and new structures are being created in public spaces.
Step by step, through modest local initiatives like these, the world is learning to treat its waste more responsibly. For
communities like Villanueva, a pile of used PET bottles used to be an eyesore. But with a little education, creativity, and an important shift of perspective, residents now see it for what it really is: A resource of terrific potential.